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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 27

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 23, 2018

ANALYSIS OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 27

In this chapter, the Evangelist records the second meeting of the Sanhedrin, early next morning, when they decided on having our Lord sent before the Governor, in order to obtain his sanction for the ignominious death they desired to inflict on Him (Mt 27:1–2). The fruitless repentance and sad end of the traitor, Judas (Mt 27:3–5). The hypocritical affectation of religious scruples on the part of the High Priests, who would not have the price of blood devoted to any other than charitable purposes, viz., the purchase of a burying-place for strangers, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Zacharias relating to this very subject (Mt 27:6–10). The questioning of our Lord by Pontius Pilate, the Governor, who himself seemed to attach no weight to the clamours and false charges on the part of the Jews—the great wonder which our Redeemer’s silence, under the circumstances, caused him (Mt 27:11–14). Pilate’s idea of rescuing our Lord out of their hands, by proposing Him or Barabbas, as equally the object of the people’s choice. The testimony borne in favour of our Lord by Pilate’s wife. The preference given to Barabbas, the robber and murderer—the loud call for our Lord’s crucifixion. The release of Barabbas, and the sentence of the death of the cross passed on our Lord by Pilate, though this weak, temporizing judge, who had recourse to the most humiliating, painful expedients to have Him released, was manifestly convinced of His innocence. The insulting treatment received by our Lord at the hands of the soldiers in Pilate’s hall, who afterwards lead Him out for crucifixion (Mt 27:15–31). His bitter crucifixion, rendered still more bitter by the circumstances that accompanied it. The bitter potion given Him to drink. His associates in suffering, two thieves, one placed each side of Him. The division of His garments. The sneers and taunts of His enemies, reproaching Him in the midst of His torments (Mt 27:32–44). The darkness that brooded over the earth from the sixth till the ninth hour. His death, which occurred in a preternatural manner (Mt 27:45–50). The wonderful events that occurred in connexion with it. The testimony of the centurion on witnessing them, in favour of His Divinity (Mt 27:51–54). The taking down of His sacred body from the cross, by Joseph of Arimathea, who also bestowed on it the rites of decent sepulture in his own now tomb, hewed out of a rock (Mt 27:55–61). The application to Pilate by the Chief Priest and Pharisees for a band of soldiers to guard the sepulchre, which, being granted, they also adopt the additional precaution of affixing the public seal to it (Mt 27:62–66).

COMMENTARY

Mt 27:1. “And when morning was come.” The time is more precisely determined by the other Evangelists: “And straightway in the morning” (Mark 15:1); “And as soon as it was day” (Luke 22:66). “All the chief priests and ancients of the people”—SS. Mark and Luke add, “and the Scribes.” These three orders constituted the Jewish Sanhedrin or Supreme Council of seventy-two Judges or Senators. “Held a council against Jesus.” St. Mark (Mk 15:1), speaks of “the whole council.” Most likely, the Council that condemned our Lord on the previous evening, having been dissolved, Caiphas took care to summon all the members of the Sanhedrin against the following morning, so that the increased number of assessors, and the day time alone suited for judicial proceedings, would add greater solemnity and weight to the judgment of the preceding night, which condemned Jesus to death, and thus Pilate could hardly resist their united authority, “to put Him to death.” St. Matthew, who omits giving a full account of the gross indignities to which our Redeemer was subjected on the preceding night in the hall of Caiphas, omits all account of what occurred at this second, or morning meeting, probably, because it might be only a repetition of what he before described as having occurred before the judges on the preceding occasion. We are, however, informed by St. Luke (Lk 22:66, &c.), that they questioned Him, “If thou be the Christ, tell us.” Although some expositors, with Maldonatus, are of opinion, that St. Matthew (Mt 26:63, &c.), anticipates what should be described here; the general opinion, however, is, that all that St. Matthew there describes occurred at night, and that the same was again repeated in the morning, as recorded. (St. Luke 22:66, &c.) The three Evangelists describe the mocking of our Lord as occurring at night, and alter He declared Himself to be the Christ (Matt. 26:67). “Then they spat in His face,” &c., when He was condemned to death for blasphemy. The same captious question, proposed the preceding night by the High Priest (Mt 26:63), was next morning repeated in presence of all the Council (Luke 22:66). So that whether He denied or asserted it—and He did mildly, but firmly, assert it (Luke 22:66)—it would prove equally a subject of accusation before Pilate.

Mt 27:2. Having then elicited from Him a confession, which they regarded as a grave charge, both on religious grounds, viz., blasphemy against God; and civil grounds, viz., affectation of supreme temporal power, and sedition against Rome, “they brought Him—St. John (Jn 18:28), says, ‘from Caiphas’—bound.” Most likely, they had removed the cords which bound Him, when questioned before the Sanhodrin, and then, again, they bind Him before leading Him forth. St. Mark (Mk 15:1), says, they “bound Jesus.” “And delivered Him to Pontius Pilate, the governor.” This they did, because, most likely, now that Judea was reduced to a Roman province, and ruled, like other provinces, by a Roman Governor, the power of life and death was vested in him alone (John 18:31), and the instances in which they put men to death, were only tumultuous, riotous proceedings, in which the multitude exceeded their legitimate power, as in the case of Stephen and others; but such proceedings were not legal. Or, if we suppose the Jews to have still the power of life and death in certain cases, they had not the power of inflicting death by crucifixion, on our Redeemer. Hence, they required Pilate’s sanction to inflict on Him this kind of death, introduced by the Romans. They also wished to make it appear, that parties no way concerned with our Redeemer, judicially put Him to death, and had Him crucified, as infamous, between two robbers. Stoning was the death marked out in the law for Him, as a blasphemer. But crucifixion could be inflicted by Pilate. They also wished to remove from themselves the stigma of having acted against Christ, from envy. The chief reason, however, is that assigned by St. John (Jn 18:31). They had no power themselves to put Him to death. But God permitted all this, to verify His predictions, that His Son should be tortured even by the Gentiles. So that as He redeemed all, Jew and Gentile, all should be accessory to His death. By a just judgment of God, as they delivered up the Son of God to the Romans, to be crucified; they were, in turn, delivered over to the iron legions of Vespasian and Titus, to be butchered and banished, and their city levelled to the dust.

Mt 27:3. Judas, now seeing that our Redeemer was condemned by the Jews, and declared worthy of death; and knowing, from their determined hostility towards Him, that they would insist on Pilate’s acceding to their wicked desires, “repenting himself,” was sorry for what he did. Most likely, he hoped that our Redeemer would either confute their silly charges; or, whether miraculously, or, in some other way, would extricate Himself out of their hands. Now, seeing that it was otherwise; as His death was most certainly determined on, he repented of what he did, not, however, with that repentance which involved hope in the Divine mercy, but, from a feeling of remorse and torturing pain. The devil, who entered into him, and instigated him, now opens his eyes to the magnitude of his guilt, in order to drive him to despair. Hoping to rescind the wicked contract which he made with them, and that by giving up the price of his Master, they might, in turn, set Him free, he “brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the Chief Priests,” &c.

Mt 27:4. “Saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood,” that is, an innocent man. He did not leave the Jews the extenuating excuse, that in crucifying our Redeemer, they had the testimony of one of His own bosom friends, who was best acquainted with His manner of life. His very traitor bears testimony in His favour, so that, besides the testimony of His doctrine, and good works, and miracles, even this last testimony borne Him by Judas and Pilate’s wife, renders them inexcusable.

“But, they said: What is that to us? look thou to it.” This shows the obstinate malice of the Jews. They insinuate, that they cared not whether Jesus was innocent or guilty; having Him now in their power, they are determined, at all hazards, to wreak vengeance on Him. “What is that to us?” They make light of co-operating in the death of a man, declared by His very betrayer to be innocent.

Mt 27:5. “And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple.” Most likely, while some of the priests had proceeded to Pilate’s house to accuse Jesus, others proceeded to the temple for the discharge of their priestly functions, on this solemn festival; and when Judas had confessed his guilt, and brought back the money to the Chief Priests, &c., at either the house of Caiphas or Pilate, and they paying no heed to him, refused accepting the money, or rescinding the contract, he, at once proceeded to the temple, and threw the money there at the feet of the ministering priests, so as to rescind the contract, as far as he was concerned; so that the money—which, if thrown away in the house of Pilate or Caiphas, would be gathered up by the servants, and never restored—would be gathered up by the priests, and given back to those who gave it to him; and being flung into the temple, it would be sacred, the price of innocent blood unfit for profane use.

“And went and hanged himself with a halter.” St. Peter (Acts 1:18), describes his death rather differently, and still more circumstantially, “and being hanged, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out,” the result of which was (Acts 1:25), “that he might go to his own place,” that is, to his destined place in hell’s torments. The Greek in Acts 1–18 for, “being hanged” (πρηνης γενομενος), should rather be translated, “being precipitated headlong.” Hence, some expositors find a difficulty in reconciling St. Peter’s account of Judas’ death, with that of St. Matthew, απελθων απηγξατο, which is commonly rendered, “going, he hanged himself.” Both accounts are perfectly consistent; and taken conjointly, both, most probably, give a full account of the manner of Judas’ death. Going, he hanged himself, as did Achitophel before him, who was a typo of him as to his crime and fate, (2 Sam 17:23); and while hanging for some time, the rope either breaking, or giving way, he was precipitated headlong, and falling on a hard protruding substance, he burst asunder, and his bowels gushed forth; or, it may be, that being suspended, his head downwards, owing to the exertion, he became swollen, and his bowels burst forth. Either supposition will reconcile the narrative of St. Matthew here, and of St. Peter (Acts 1–18). St. Matthew records the kind of death, whereby Judas sought to put an end to his miserable life; St. Peter, the mode in which he actually did die, the latter resulting directly from the former.

It is to be observed, that although Judas, apparently had the different ingredients of penance, he had it not, however, in reality. His sorrow did not contain the hope of pardon. It was rather dark despair. Neither was his confession, “I have sinned,” &c., made to those to whom alone was granted the power of absolving him: “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.” The Jewish priests had no such power.

Mt 27:6. These consummate hypocrites, who “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matt. 23:24), scruple to employ for sacred purposes the price of blood, and make no scruple to unjustly shed that blood. The word, “corbona,” is a Syriac term, signifying a gift, and most commonly, a gift presented to the sacred treasury. Again it denotes the treasury itself, or place set apart in the temple for pious offering, which was in the Court of the women. There was no prohibition in the law against receiving such money. There was a prohibition against receiving the wages of a strumpet, or the price of a dog (Deut. 23:18), and by analogy, they inferred that the price of blood should be equally objectionable and prohibited.

Mt 27:7. After due deliberation, these hypocrites, affecting a charitable disposition for the poor, their object in reality being to perpetuate the infamous end of our Redeemer, delivered over to death by one of His own disciples, of which the purchased burying ground would serve as a lasting monument, “bought with them (the thirty pieces of silver), the potter’s field,” so called, either because it belonged to some potter; or, because the soil was employed for pottery purposes, and being now exhausted, and consequently, of scarcely any value, was sold for the trifling sum of thirty pieces of silver, “To be a burying place for strangers,” whether foreign Jews who resorted to Jerusalem, and had no burial place of their own, as the inhabitants of Jerusalem had, who deemed it a great solace to be buried in the tombs of their fathers; or, more probably, to Gentile foreigners, who came in crowds to Jerusalem, and being regarded as impious, were not allowed to be buried with the faithful Jews. The application of the price of our Saviour’s blood to the purchase of a cemetery for strangers, signified, that true rest is in store for those who, being strangers to the people of God, have obtained the rights of citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem, “cives sanctorum,” &c. (Ephes. 2:19), by sharing in the merits of the Cross of Christ, and by being buried with Him in baptism unto death (Rom. 6:3-4).

Mt 27:8. “Wherefore, that field was called haceldama,” &c. The providence of God so ordained it, that what the Chief Priests meant to be a lasting monument of reproach to our Redeemer, would serve as an eternal monument of their crime, and especially of the treason of Judas; and tend to the glory of Jesus, as is insinuated by St. Peter (Acts 1:19). “Haceldama” is a Chaldaic term, signifying, “the field of blood,” or, the field purchased for the blood money received for the betrayal of Jesus by His own apostate disciple, who, after declaring the innocence of his Master, in a lit of despair hanged himself with a halter.

Mt 27:9. The same was ordained by God for me verification and fulfilment of the ancient prophecies. “By Jeremias the prophet saying: And they took the thirty pieces of silver,” &c. These words are not found in any part of Jeremias; but, they are found substantially, and in sense, in the Prophet Zacharias, not according to the Septuagint; but, according to St. Jerome’s version (Zech 11:12-13). Hence, different commentators have differently recourse to several ways for accounting for the introduction of the name of Jeremias here, instead of Zacharias. Some say, with Origen, that it arose from a mistake of copyists, who, owing to manuscript abbreviations, mistook, Ιριοδ, that is, Ιερεμιου for Ζριοδ, or, Ζαχαριου. Others, that the Evangelist only quoted the prophet in a general way; “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet, saying,” &c., without mentioning any particular prophet, a thing quite common in the Gospel of St. Matthew (Mt 1:22; 2:5, 15; 13:35, &c.); and that afterwards some one, wishing to particularize the prophet, wrote in the margin, “Jeremias,” because Jeremias “bought a yield” (Jer 32:9). This marginal addition, in course of time, made its way into the text of all the Latin and most of the Greek copies. “Jeremias” was not found in the Syriac, nor in some Latin MSS. in the time of St. Augustine. The error of those who wrote Jeremias instead of Zacharias in the margin, might be easily accounted for, inasmuch as the passage from Zacharias, according to the Septuagint, which alone was used by the Greek and Latin Churches before the time of St. Jerome, had hardly anything in common with the quotation here given by St. Matthew. Others say, that this prophecy might have been found in some of the prophecies of Jeremias now lost. For, he wrote more books than we have now extant (2 Macc 2:1). Others, in some apocryphal writings of Jeremias. The sacred writers quote from such occasionally. St. Paul is supposed to have done so (2 Tim. 3:8), in reference to the names of the Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Mambres. St. Jerome assures us, he was shown by a Nazarene, a writing of Jeremias, in which this quotation was found. The writing, however, was not canonical. Others suppose, that this prophecy of Jeremias was not written; but handed down, by the tradition of the Jews. Similar in that quoted by our Redeemer in reference to the Tower of Siloe (Luke 13:4).

Others, among whom is St. Augustine, &c., quoted by Benedict XIV. (de Festis, &c.), are of opinion, that the quotation is made up of two different members, one from Jeremias (Jer 32:9), relating to a field Jeremias purchased from his uncle’s son, for “seven staters and ten pieces of silver,” a sum different from that mentioned here; the other from Zacharias (Zech 11:12, &c.), having reference to the thirty pieces offered by the High Priest to Zacharias. The quotations, according to these interpreters, are not verbally taken from either prophet, but only the sense of them; and these also maintain, that St. Matthew quotes only one prophet, Jeremias, passing over Zacharias—a thing not unusual with the Evangelists, when giving a quotation from different prophets, as may be seen (Mark 1:2, 3), where, quoting a text, the first part of which is from Malachias, the other from Isaias, the Evangelist only mentions Isaias, without at all mentioning Malachias—however, the more common opinion is, in whatever way the introduction of the name of Jeremias may be accounted for, that the quotation of St. Matthew is substantially the same as the words of Zacharias (Zech 11:12-13). In that passage of Zacharias, the Lord seeks for His wages—“bring hither My wages” (v. 12)—from the Jewish people, through the prophet, in return for the several benefits conferred on them; and He complains, at finding it so insignificant, as not to exceed in value thirty pieces of silver, &c. (See Zech. 11:12, &c.) The command of God that the prophet would cast these thirty pieces to the statuary or potter, and its execution (Zech. 11:13), looking to prophetical usage, are but a prediction of what was to happen at a future day, when the Chief Priests, instead of a suitable reward for the benefits conferred on their nation by Christ, gave Judas thirty pieces of silver to betray Him. These pieces Judas cast into the temple, and they were afterwards given to a poor potter as the price of his field. The words then mean: “And they”—the Chief Priests—“took the thirty pieces of silver”—which were cast into the temple—“the price of Him that was prized,” viz., the Messiah, “whom they prized of the children of Israel,” that is, whom those who were of the children of Israel, to whom He was sent, prized at so low a sum, the price of a common slave, “and they gave them unto the potter’s field, as the Lord had appointed to me,” that is, had commanded the Prophet Zacharias to do.

“They took.” In the Hebrew it is, “I took.” The prophet spoke in the first person to show, that he did what the Lord commanded him; the Evangelist, in the third person, to show that the priests had fulfilled, what the prophet practically prophesied in this matter. However, the Greek word, ελαβον, might be rendered in the first person, “I took,” &c. “The price of Him that was valued,” is ironically termed by the prophet (Zech. 11:13), “a handsome price.” “Of the children of Israel,” that is, those who were of the children of Israel. Some expositors join these latter words with, “the price of Him that was valued,” thus: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was valued of the children of Israel, whom they prized,” at so low a price, “pretium appretiati a filiis Israel quem appretiaverunt.”

Mt 27:10. “They gave them unto the potter’s field.” St. Matthew more clearly expresses the object of the prophet, who speaks in the first person: “I cast them into the house of the Lord to the statuary” (Zech. 11:13). “As the Lord appointed to me.” These words are not found expressly in the prophet; but, they are found virtually there, inasmuch as it was by the command of God the prophet threw the thirty pieces of silver in the temple to the statuary or potter; hence, he did as the Lord appointed. St. Matthew adds these words, to show, that all this did not happen by chance; but, by the express command and deliberate will of God, wishing beforehand to foreshadow and prophesy by act, what was to happen our Lord in the fulness of time.

Mt 27:11. “And Jesus stood before the Governor.” He “stood,” as one arraigned for trial, before Pilate, who governed Judea as President, in the name of the Emperor Tiberius. After having described the tragical end of the unhappy Judas, the Evangelist now returns to the subject of our Redeemer’s Passion. As each of the Evangelists has only recorded a part of the circumstances of the Life and Passion of our Lord, several, circumstances are described by St. John (Jn 19:28–32), which are here omitted by St. Matthew, and which should be prefixed to this verse (Mt 27:11), as having taken place before what is recorded here. Pilate being no way moved by their general charges against our Lord, and their clamorous demands for His punishment, they thon proceed to more specific charges, which are recorded by St. Luke (Lk 23:2). These are threefold, and all, so many gross calumnies. In Pilate’s letter to Tiberius, in this cause of Christ, still extant (Hegesippus, Lib. 5), he states, that the Jews brought a fourth charge against our Lord, viz., that He practised magic, in virtue of which, He performed some miraculous wonders: “In Beelzebub, the prince of devils,” &c. (Matt. 12:24.) The accusation relating to His having affected sovereign power, was most calculated to affect Pilate, who was charged with maintaining the cause and sovereignty of the Romans. It was only after hearing these specific charges from the Jews, whom Pilate addressed outside his house, as they would not enter, lest they might be defiled and prevented from partaking of the Pasch (John 19:28), he returns to the Governor’s hall, within the house, where our Lord had been left, and, passing over the other charges as perhaps frivolous, and no way concerning him, as Governor, asks Him, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?”—this being the only charge that concerned him as representative of Cæsar, whose authority it might prejudice, as it involved, in some sense, the grave and practical charge of preaching up the refusal to pay tribute to Cæsar. For, it followed, naturally, that whoever aimed at sovereign power, as here imputed to our Lord, would interdict the giving of tribute to any other claimant to the same supreme power. Origen remarks, that the way in which Pilate put this question, showed clearly he gave no credit to it, as if he said: Is it possible that you, who are so lowly and contemptible among your fellow-countrymen, could pretend to be the king so long and anxiously expected by them?

“Jesus saith to him: Thou sayest it,” a modest form of asserting a thing; “thou sayest what is true.” Before these words should be placed, in the order of narration, those recorded by St. John (Jn 18:34–37), “sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it to thee of Me?” Was it from his own knowledge, or the suggestion of others, he asked such a question? Our Redeemer thus insinuated, that Pilate was only reciting the charges of His enemies; and that Pilate himself, although bound in duty to see that no one should usurp the authority of Cæsar, had no reason, although so long Governor of Judea, to suspect Him of the offence imputed to Him. Pilate being somewhat irritated by this question, at once tells Him, that He, as a stranger, could know nothing about the king, or the characteristics of the king, whom the Jewish nation was so anxiously expecting; and that it was His own nation, and its chiefs, that delivered Him over for judgment. “Am I a Jew?” “Thy own nation, and the Chief Priests … what hast Thou done?” (John 18:35). Seeing that Pilate had questioned Him, not captiously, but with a view of eliciting the truth, our Redeemer replies, that His kingdom is not of such a nature as would cause Pilate any uneasiness; that His kingdom “was not of this world,” &c. (John 19:36.) Then Pilate asks Him, “Art Thou then a king?” (Jn 19:37), be your kingdom of whatever description it may. Our Redeemer answers, as in this verse (Mt 27:11), “thou sayest that I am a king;” and He further states the object of His mission, which was “to give testimony to the truth” (John 18:37).

Pilate then asks, “what is truth?” and, as if he cared not for an answer, felt no way concerned or interested in the whole affair, he at once, abruptly, without awaiting a reply, goes out to the Jews and tells them, “I find no cause in Him” (John 18:38).

Mt 27:12. “When He was accused by the Chief Priests,” &c. St. Mark says (Mk 15:3), “they accused Him in many things,” confiding more in the multitude of their charges and in their violent clamour, than in the truth of what they advanced against Him.

“He answered nothing” Our Redeemer was silent for several reasons—1st. Because the charges brought against Him were manifestly false and undeserving of a reply. 2nd. Because a reply would irritate the Jews still more. 3rd. Lest He might be discharged by Pilate, and thus the decree of God, wishing Him to make atonement for the sins of man by the death of the cross, would be frustrated; and, finally, to make atonement by His silence for all the sins of evil speech of which mankind were guilty; and to leave us an example of suffering patiently in similar circumstances. He also wished to fulfil the prophecies (Isa 53:7), “like a sheep brought to the slaughter … and shall not open His mouth.”

Mt 27:13. The words of this verse evidently insinuate, that Pilate brought our Redeemer outside to hear the crimes laid to His charge by the Jews, and then asked, what He would reply to the accusations.

Mt 27:14. “And He answered not … so that the Governor wondered exceedingly.” He admired His meekness, contempt of death, and elevation of soul in such perilous circumstances, and became convinced of His innocence; so that he endeavoured, by all means, to set Him free, saying, “he could find no cause in Him” (Luke 23:4). He wondered greatly to see a man, who could so easily justify Himself, observe silence in such circumstances; for, it was evident His enemies were actuated by rage, and could prove nothing against Him.

But they, seeing this, became more earnest in their accusations, “saying: He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place” (Luke 23:5). By alluding to Galilee, they wished to inspire Pilate with terror, lest sedition might be excited by this man, Pilate himself being aware that Galilee had given birth to many seditious and rebellious characters, such as Judas, and those whose blood Pilate himself had mingled with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1), Theodas, &c. (Acts 5:36, 37.) The mention of Galilee suggested to Pilate a means of extricating himself from his embarrassment. He asked if He were a Galilean; and on being answered in the affirmative, he sends Him to Herod, to whose jurisdiction He belonged; and who, on the occasion of the solemn festival, came to Jerusalem.

St. Luke minutely details all that occurred in connexion with our Redeemer’s being sent to Herod, the contumelious treatment He was subjected to in Herod’s presence, and the ignominious manner in which He was again sent back to Pilate (Lk 23:7–13). When Pilate saw that He was sent back by Herod; he, in order to set our Redeemer free, said to the Chief Priests, whom he called together, “You have brought this man to me as one that perverteth the people”—this was the principal charge for Pilate and Herod to take cognizance of—“and behold … I find no cause in this man … No, nor yet Herod,” &c. (Luke 23:14.) Then, this weak, temporizing judge bethought himself of a means of satisfying the fury of the Jews, without involving himself in the crime of condemning an innocent man. He orders Him to be scourged. “I will chastise”—that is, scourge Him—“therefore, and release Him,” hoping that their fury would relent on beholding the pitiable condition to which the cruel flagellation would have reduced Him. Hence, after it, he brought Him forth, and exclaimed, “Behold the Man” (John 19:5). This expedient failing, he adopted another means of securing His release. It is recorded as follows, by St. Matthew:—

Mt 27:15-16. “Now upon the solemn day” (St. John 18:39, expressly mentions the Pasch, as if by excellence, “the solemn day”) “the Governor was accustomed to release,” &c. This custom was, most likely, introduced originally among the Jews, in commemoration of their liberation from the Egyptian bondage. And the Romans on obtaining the sovereignty of Judea, continued it, as they did several other usages, as a privilege granted to the people, the Governor himself being the party to carry it into effect, at the instance of the people, on the anniversary recurrence of each Paschal solemnity. Pilate now hoped that, by proposing to them a notorious prisoner, named Barabbas, “a murderer” (Luke 23:19); “a robber” (John 19:4, &c.), and leaving them to choose between him and Jesus, they could not for an instant, hesitate in their choice of Him, who had done so many acts of mercy in their favour, before a notorious murderer and robber. What humiliation to the Son of God, the author of life, to be put in competition with a notorious robber and murderer, and made equally the object of the people’s choice.

Mt 27:17. It would seem from St. Mark (Mk 15:8), that it was the people who first called on Pilate to grant them the usual privilege of having a criminal pardoned at their request, and that Pilate seized on this opportunity thus presented to him, for extricating himself from his embarrassment. He then proposed to them, to choose between Jesus and Barabbas, not doubting but they would call for the release of Jesus. The usage would seem to be, that the Governor would propose a certain number of criminals, from among whom the people might make a choice; but, that the people had not the privilege of choosing indiscriminately any criminal, whom they pleased, for release. For, if this were the case, the people might have said: We do not choose either Jesus or Barabbas; but somebody else, perhaps, some less obnoxious member of the gang of seditious robbers, of whom Barabbas was the notorious leader.

Mt 27:18. Pilate well knew, that they were actuated in the whole case by feelings of jealousy and envy. Although many interpreters question Pilate’s sincerity in his expressed desire to release our Lord; still, it seems more probable, he sincerely desired to set Him free. St. Luke expressly says so (Lk 23:20), and so does St. Peter (Acts 3:13).

Mt 27:19. While waiting for the answer of the people, regarding the choice of a criminal to be released to them, a fresh testimony of our Redeemer’s innocence was furnished to Pilate. His wife had been troubled with some startling dreams relative to our Lord. She calls Him a “just man,” as did Pilate himself (Mt 27:24), an epithet long before applied to Him by Isaiah 53, “justificabit ipse Justus servus meus multos.” What the nature or subject of her dream was, cannot be known. All the Evangelist records of it is, that it had the effect of causing her much suffering. Most likely, it revealed to her the grievous evils in store for her husband, in case he condemned “this just man,” the innocent Jesus. Some say, this dream was caused by the devil, who now recognising Christ for the Son of God, saw the consequences of His death. But this is not likely. Most probably, the devil already knew Him to be the Son of God. But, we have the testimony of St. Paul (1 Cor. 2:8), that the devils, “the princes of this world,” did not know the economy involved in the death of Christ, otherwise, they would not have crucified Him. And if they wished to prevent His death, they would have acted rather on the Jews, whom they instigated to murder the Son of God. Hence, most likely, the dream came from God, in order that every sex would bear testimony to Christ, as well as the very elements that eloquently testified to His Divinity at His death. And the dream was sent to his wife rather than to Pilate himself, in order that her message would be publicly delivered, in the presence of His enemies. Besides, Pilate’s testimony might be liable to suspicion. For, many would say: he merely wished for some pretext for extricating himself out of the embarrassment, in which the condemnation of Christ, whom he knew to be innocent, would involve him.

Mt 27:20. The same is recorded by St. Mark (Mk 15:11). Pilate gave them time to deliberate about the answer, as to which of the two they would have released to them; and, in the meantime, the Chief Priests brought every influence to bear on them, to ask for Barabbas.

Mt 27:21. After due time for deliberation, he now again proposes the question, “Which of the two would they have released to them?” Their answer, calling for Barabbas, naturally disappointed and embarrassed Pilate. Hence, he cries out:

Mt 27:22. “What shall I do with Jesus, that is called Christ?” Their answer discloses their obstinate cruelty: “Let Him be crucified.” In St. Luke, the words are twice repeated, “Crucify Him, crucify Him” (Lk 23:21), which revealed their determination to put Him to a cruel death.

Mt 27:23. Pilate then said to them, “Why,” crucify Him? “What evil hath He done?” St. Luke (Lk 23:22), informs us that, for the third time, Pilate said, he “found no cause in Him,” that is, he could discover no crime committed by Him to warrant His death. Thus, Pilate, three times, bore testimony to His innocence. Pilate could, doubtless, find no cause in Him. But, not so with His Heavenly Father, who saw in Him the bail, the surety for sin, of which He took upon Himself the full imputability. For, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Their only answer was, “Let Him be crucified.”

Mt 27:24-26. Here Pilate devises another and most cruel expedient for satisfying the fury of the people, without involving himself in the crime of condemning Him. He orders Him to be scourged, hoping, that the fury of the people would relent on beholding the pitiable condition to which the cruel flagellation would reduce Him. Hence, he afterwards presented Him to the multitude, “Behold the Man” (John 19:5). The washing of his hands by Pilate, &c. ( Mt 27::24-25), occurred after our Lord was scourged (Luke 23:22), and is given here by anticipation. The circumstances and order of this flagellation are recorded more fully by SS. Luke and John. St. Luke mentions (Lk 23:18–22), that Pilate, after our Lord’s return from Herod, calling together the Chief Priests, &c., said, “I shall chastise Him,” that is, scourge Him, “and release Him.” He does not, however, tell us afterwards, what this chastisement was, how or when it took place. He ends his narrative of Pilate’s conversation with the Jews, by simply informing us, that overcome by their clamorous importunity, after releasing Barabbas, “he delivered Jesus up to their will” (Lk 23:25). But, St. John, who wrote after St. Luke, distinctly informs us (Jn 19:1, &c.), that this chastisement was scourging; and that its object was to cause the people to relent at the sight of the man presented to them in such a pitiable state after his flagellation. St. Matthew and St. Mark, however, refer to the scourging of our Lord in such a way, as if it would seem to have taken place, not so much for the purpose of appeasing the multitude, as preparatory for crucifixion. For, as we are informed by St. Jerome, the custom with the Romans was to scourge first, those who were doomed to the ignominious death of the cross. And as St. John insinuates, that the scourging had for object to appease the multitude; hence, some expositors hold, that our Redeemer was scourged twice, and mocked twice by the soldiers; once, before the sentence of death was pronounced upon Him, in order to appease the fury of the Jews;—to this, St. John refers (Jn 19:1, &c.)—and a second time after the sentence, in compliance with the law or custom of the Romans, in such cases. This latter scourging, they say, is referred to by Matthew and Mark. The more probable and more common opinion, however, is, that He was scourged, &c., but once; and that, before the sentence was pronounced, as in St. John. To the same scourging, St. Matthew refers, when he says (Mt 27:26), “having scourged Jesus,” already. This one flagellation answered the requirement of the Roman law quoted from St. Jerome, and the Greek word for, “having scourged” (φραγελλωσας), which refers to a past action, will fully bear out the meaning. Hence, in referring after the sentence of death was pronounced by Pilate, to the scourging and the insulting treatment of our Redeemer in Pilate’s hall by the soldiers, both St. Matthew and St. Mark repeat, out of the proper order of narration, what took place before the sentence of death was pronounced, as we are informed by St. John. (Jn 19:1, &c.)

How painful this cruel flagellation was, may be inferred from the character of the executioners—heartless Pagan soldiers, dead to every feeling of pity—and from the object Pilate had in view, viz., by the shocking appearance He would present, to satisfy the rage of His enemies. According to the Jewish law, no criminal could receive forty stripes; but, as our shameful and sinful excesses, which He was expiating, outraged every law of reason and religion, so, these barbarous executioners are regulated by no law in His regard. They discharged on Him a shower of blows. It is said, that it was revealed to St. Bridget, that the number of stripes He received was above 5000. Hence, the excessive cruelty of His executioners, and the number of stripes they inflicted, coupled with the exquisite sensibility of His sacred body (for by its perfect organization it was framed for punishment), place the tortures of our Blessed Lord beyond the power of conception. He was scourged at a pillar, which, or, at least a portion of it according to some, is to be seen in a little chapel of the Church of Saint Praxedes, at Rome. This pillar was formerly kept at Jerusalem in Mount Sion, as we are informed by St. Gregory Naz. (Orat. 1, in Julian); St. Paulinus (Epis. 34); Ven. Bede (de locis Sanctis), St. Jerome, &c. It was brought to Rome in the year 1223, by John Cardinal Columna, Apostolic Legate in the East, under Pope Honorius III., as we are informed by the inscription over the little chapel in the Church of St. Praxedes.

The scourges are said to be made of leather thongs or cords. Others say, He was scourged, after the Roman manner, with rods. The Roman fasces were composed of rods, with an axe, for the scourging and execution of criminals.

“Delivered Him to them to be crucified.” Pilate did this by a judicial sentence, condemning Him to the death of the cross. But this occurred only after He was mocked by the soldiers, crowned with thorns, &c., as is very accurately and minutely described by St. John. (19 Hence, in St. Matthew’s description, the order of events is not observed.

Mt 27:27. “Then,” does not mean, that the following occurrences took place immediately after He was delivered by Pilate to be crucified, as in preceding verse. It only means, that they happened at the time of, or, during His Passion. We are informed by St. John (Jn 19:2, &c.), that this mocking of our Redeemer, &c., took place immediately in connexion with the cruel scourging. Hence, “then,” refers not to “delivered Him to be crucified,” but to the words, “having scourged Jesus.”

“The soldiers of the Governor,” his body-guard. Most likely, they constituted the Prætorian cohort, who were always at the service of the Prætor or Governor in his province. This band was stationed in the Citadel Antonia, midway between the palace of Pilate and the temple.

“Taking Jesus into the hall,” or, as St. Mark more clearly expresses it (Mk 15:16), “into the court of the palace,” where the Governor resided. It would seem, that this was done by four soldiers, who acted the part of Lictors (John 19:23). In this hall, very probably, was the Prætor’s tribunal, and they made our Redeemer ascend this, in derision of His Royal dignity.

“Gathered together unto Him the entire band.” “The band,” or cohort, being the tenth part of a Roman legion, would vary in number according to the number in the legion, which was sometimes more, sometimes loss. The ordinary number constituting a legion, was 6000. Hence, “the band,” or cohort, probably contained 600. These were gathered together for the purpose of mocking and insolently deriding our Divine Redeemer.

Mt 27:28. “And stripping Him” of His clothes, which had been put on Him after He was scourged, or stripping Him for the purpose of scourging Him. Then, after this cruel deed, when He was yet naked, “they put a scarlet cloak about Him,” in derision of His Royal dignity, such being worn by kings and emperors. It is doubtful, whether our Lord, after being scourged, had been clothed again with His own garments, and then again stripped of them, when the soldiers mocked Him; or, whether the words, “stripping Him,” do not refer to the act preparatory to His flagellation. St. Mark (Mk 15:20), calls it “purple.” But as “purple” is sometimes taken to denote a bright red, hence the words, purple and scarlet, are interchanged; and the two Evangelists, as well as many other writers, make no distinction between both words.

Mt 27:29. “And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head,” in derision of His kingly dignity. “And a reed in His right hand,” to serve as a sceptre for this mock King of the Jews. There is some diversity of opinion regarding the nature and materials of this crown. The thorns from it, which are exhibited in the Holy Chapel, built by St. Louis, for the reception of this pious relic of the Crown of Thorns at Paris, are very large and sharp. The pain caused our Divine Redeemer, by the pressure of these sharp thorns into His sacred head and temples, must have been excessive. From it we can learn the excessive enormity of our wicked thoughts of consent, which it was intended to expiate.

“And bowing down … Hail, King of the Jews.” This also was done in derision of His Royal dignity.

Mt 27:30. “And spitting on Him, they took the reed and struck His head,” thereby pressing the crown of thorns more deeply and more firmly on Him, which was to our Blessed Lord, a source of the deepest humiliation and torture. We see from the foregoing, how our Lord was derisively clothed with all the ensigns of Royalty, and insultingly treated by the soldiers as the mock King of the Jews—1st They gather around Him the entire cohort to wait on Him. They place Him on some lofty stone or bench, as on a sort of tribunal, as St. Clement, of Alexandria, informs us. They give Him for a Royal crown, that of thorns. For a Royal vestment, they throw a scarlet cloak around Him (probably, this was a cast-off cloak of some Roman officer). They gave Him a reed for a Royal sceptre, and the acclamations with which He was greeted were the derisive genuflexions of the soldiers, spittle, blows, and stripes, all of which our amiable Saviour bore with astonishing humility and meekness, and they merited for Him, that “every knee, whether in heaven, on earth, or in hell, should bend,” at a future day, before Him.

Here, in the order of narrative, should be inserted, what is recorded by St. John (Jn 19:4–16). Pilate had either instructed or permitted the soldiers to treat our Lord in the contumelious manner just now described by St. Matthew; and also to torture Him with the crown of thorns, in order that the pitiable appearance He would present, might cause the Jews to relent. Going forth, he said to the Jews (John 19:4), “I bring Him forth to you, that you may know, that I find no cause in Him.” And immediately after, Jesus came forth from the Governor’s hall, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment; and then, Pilate pointing to His miserable condition, with a view to exciting their commiseration, said, “Behold the Man;” see the wretched being, whom you have charged with aspiring to Royal dignity, and with meditating the overthrow of Cæsar’s power. Think you now is there anything to be dreaded from Him on this score? Instead of relenting, the people, instigated by the Chief Priests, cried out, “Crucify Him,” &c. Pilate, being irritated at this, replied, “Take Him you and crucify Him, for I find no cause in Him.” They replied: Although, He may not have transgressed against the majesty or laws of Rome, He has violated a law of ours, which entails death, by making Himself the Son of God; and, as Governor, you should punish the violation of our laws. Pilate was seized with religious awe on hearing this. Yielding to the absurd notions conveyed in the Pagan Fables, respecting the progeny of the gods, he feared that Jesus might be son of Jupiter, or of Hercules, &c., and that he would incur the anger of the gods, if he punished Him. The character of the wonders performed by our Lord, the fame of which must have reached Pilate, together with the magnanimity displayed by Him, were calculated to strengthen the belief in the mind of Pilate. Hence, entering the hall again, he asked our Lord, without receiving a reply, “Whence art Thou?” (John 19:10), as if he said, of what father or mother or stock art Thou descended? from heaven or earth? Our Redeemer saw, that the Pagan mind of Pilate was incapable of comprehending the truth of the answer respecting the eternal generation of the Son of God; He, moreover, knew that Pilate was ready to deliver Him up to the Jews; He was, therefore, silent, it being useless to give any reply. Pilate, thinking his authority was slighted, boasts at once of his authority, telling Him he had power to crucify Him, and power to release Him. Our Redeemer, hitherto silent, could not permit this arrogance of Pilate, which detracted from the glory of His Passion, that depended altogether on the dispositions of His Heavenly Father, to pass unreproved.

Pilate boasted of having authority over our Redeemer, who shows him that any authority he may have had, must come from a higher power, and “begiven him from above,” and that it depended altogether on the adorable dispositions of that higher power, whether He was to be released or crucified, whether He would voluntarily undergo or escape death. But, that it did not depend on Pilate. Similar is the reproach conveyed to the Jews in the Garden of Gethsemani, “you are come out, as against a robber” (Mt 26:55); “but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). Our Redeemer adds (John 19:11), “Therefore, he that delivered Me to thee, hath the greater sin,” as if He said, because thou hast permissive power from God against Me, and art about to exercise it, however unjustly, and art about to condemn Me unjustly to death in virtue of that permissive power; hence, those who, from malignity and envy, have delivered Me to thee have sinned more than thou hast. For, although thou dost act unjustly, and out of regard for human respect, and thus dost sin grievously against justice and the duty of thy office; still, thou doest so, in a certain sense, unwillingly; and hence, those, who from envy and malice, have thus forced thee to this course of injustice, have committed a greater sin. Pilate, whose conscience was thus indirectly taxed with injustice, and whom the reply of our Redeemer left in still greater doubt, as to His Divine origin, sought with greater earnestness to release Him. He had done so already four different times (Luke 23:4–15, 20–22; John 19:4–12). He did it now with greater earnestness, for the reason already assigned, “from thenceforward.” But the Jews seeing that their charge of blasphemy had no effect on Pilate, revert to their original charge of seditious conduct; and knowing Pilate’s weakness, and the terror with which the jealous disposition of Tiberius had inspired all his Governors, when there was even an approach to the crime, læsæ majestatis, they, at once, threaten to accuse him to his imperial master of the charge of disaffection, and of protecting his enemies. This moved Pilate very much (John 19:13–16). Here, then, in the order of narrative, is inserted, what is recorded and supplemented by St. John (Jn 19:4–16), viz., how our Redeemer was shown to the Jews in a pitiable state by Pilate, with the view of exciting their compassion, and inducing them to relent; how the Jews being nowise appeased by this sad spectacle which Jesus presented, our Redeemer was again questioned by Pilate, on the charge of claiming to be the Son of God; and after various efforts on the part of Pilate to release Him, how the Jews clamorously calling for His death, and charging Pilate himself with disaffection to Cæsar, Pilate at length yielded to their desires, and mounting his tribunal, gave Jesus over to them to be crucified. After this, the soldiers taking off the purple cloak from Him, led Him forth to be crucified, as in following verse.

Mt 27:31. After the soldiers had mocked our Blessed Lord, and subjected Him to treatment the most ignominious and humiliating, “they took off the (purple) cloak from Him,” this cast-off worn garment which was quite worthless. (Here, St. Matthew reverts to the subject treated of in 27:26, “he delivered Him,” &c., after inserting some circumstances which occurred in connexion with the cruel flagellation.) “And put on His own garments.” This was done, very probably, to make Him more remarkable, and thus humble Him the more in presence of the crowded city. They might also have in view, to establish a claim to His clothes (of greater value than the worthless scarlet cloak), which, according to the usages of the time, belonged to His crucifiers. We find that they afterwards divided His garments among them. There is no mention made of their having taken the crown of thorns off Him. Most likely, this was left on Him to add to His ignominy. Moreover, it was, probably so deeply inserted into His head, that it could not conveniently be removed.

“And led Him away (from the Prætorium) to crucify Him.” Most likely, a crier or trumpeter preceded them, summoning the people to witness the sad, ignominious spectacle, in accordance with the usage prevailing among the Romans on such occasions. It is not easy to conceive the insults and injurious treatment inflicted on our innocent Saviour on this His last journey to Calvary. Very probably, He was goaded on by the soldiers, a subject of diversion to the people, who from their houses and in the midst of their repast, beheld Him, advancing under the heavy weight of His cross. He thus verified the words of the Prophet, “in me psallebant, qui bibebant vinum” (Psa. 69:13).

We can form some idea of the fatigue our Redeemer must have endured in this last journey while bearing His cross, if we consider the several journeys He was obliged to undergo during the day and the preceding night. From the Supper Hall, He went on the preceding night to Mount Olivet and the Garden of Gethsemani, more that a mile from Jerusalem; thence, He was brought back to the house of Annas, an equal distance; thence, to the house of Caiphas; thence, to the house of Pilate; thence, to the palace of Herod; and thence again to the Hall of Pilate; and, finally, He was obliged to set out on this His last journey, “bearing His own cross” (John 19:17). It was customary for those condemned to the death of the cross to carry their cross to the place of execution. This cross, which was considerably longer than the body of the culprit to be nailed to it, our Redeemer was obliged partly to carry, and partly to drag after Him; which, owing to the roughness of the road, and the bruised and wounded state of His body, must have caused Him excessive pain.

Mt 27:32. “And going out” of the gate of the city, of the road leading to the place of execution, seeing our Redeemer exhausted, and fearing He might not survive, so as to he made die the ignominious death of the cross, meeting “a man of Cyrene, namea Simon, they forced him to take up His (our Redeemer’s) cross.” This Simon, supposed by some to have been a Jew, or at least a Jewish proselyte, was father of Alexander and Rufus, well-known disciples of our Lord. It may be that St. Mark (Mk 15:21) mentions this circumstance, because it was a great honour to them that their father had carried our Lord’s cross. Others say, he was a Gentile, and from this circumstance, they would have us infer, that the true, obedient disciples, who were to carry His cross after Him, were to be chiefly found among the Gentiles. It is disputed, which “Cyrene” is here referred to, whether that of Lybia, in Africa, where a Jewish colony had settled in the time of Ptolomeus Lagus, or that of Syria or Cyprus, founded by Cyrus, whence the name Cyrene.

“They forced Him.” In the original, it means, impressed. The original term (αγγαρος), is derived from the Persian, and signifies, a courier, sent to carry public intelligence. The king’s couriers had a right to press horses and vehicles, either for the post, or the public service generally, and, when necessary, could compel the personal attendance of the owners. Hence, the word is generally employed to denote impressment, or forcing one to do a thing against his will (see Mt 5:41). Some modern writers assert, that this Simon was a Jew, from Cyrene, in Lybia; and, being a well-known disciple of our Redeemer, was forced by the soldiers, at the instigation of the Jews, to carry our Redeemer’s cross. Some say, he helped our Redeemer to carry the cross, both carrying it at the same time. But, the most common and best founded opinion is, that after our Redeemer had been unable to carry His cross, it was laid on Simon, who carried it alone to the place of execution, Luke (23:26), says, “they laid the cross on him, to carry after Jesus.” Here, it is said, “they forced him to take up His cross.” Our Redeemer Himself, as was the custom with men condemned to be crucified, had carried the cross, that is, the transverse part of it, the oblong portion trailing after Him on the ground. This caused Him great pain, considering the ulcerations caused by the cruel scourging. It was only when He was fainting, they placed it on Simon, after they passed the gate of the city that led to Calvary.

Here should be inserted what is described by St. Luke (Lk 23:27–32), regarding the “multitude of people and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him.” Far from sharing in the feelings of His enemies, they rather shed tears of sympathy in His sorrows. Turning to them, He told them to weep not so much for His sufferings—although, this He did not prevent—as for the dreadful evils which were soon to come upon them, when they would bless “the barren,” &c., as happened at the taking of Jerusalem, soon after, when, not only were their children slain, and those under seventeen sold, as bond slaves, but even unhappy mothers, in some instances, from extreme pressure of famine, devoured their own children (Josephus, de Bel. Jud. Lib. vii. c. 8). “And they shall call upon the mountains,” &c., a proverbial form of expression, denoting utter despair, in presence of unavoidable calamities (Hos 10:8). Many of the Jews, at the taking of Jerusalem, hid themselves in the vaults and sepulchres, sooner than surrender to the Romans (Josephus). Very probably, among those pious followers, were the Galilean women, who ministered to His wants, Martha and Mary also included, whom the dread of His enemies did not prevent from giving full expression to their affection for our Lord, on this, his last road to Calvary.

St. Luke adds here (Lk 23:32), “And there were also two other malefactors led with Him to be put to death.”

Mt 27:33. “And they came to the place which is called Golgotha.” The Chaldaic, or Syriac form, is, Gol-Goltha, second I being omitted for euphony’ sake, as Babcl is used for Bal-bel. “Which is the place of Calvary,” or, the place of skulls. Calvary was a sort of knoll, called so, most likely, in consequence of the skulls of persons executed or buried there being scattered about, according to the opinion of St, Jerome, Bede, &c. Some ancient writers, Origen, Theophylact, &c., say, it was called so, from the skull of Adam, which, they conjecture, was buried there. But if this were the case, it is not likely, the Jews would have made it the place for the execution of malefactors, &c. The Evangelist, in interpreting Golgotha, which means, skulls, used the words, “place of Calvary,” to show that the word, Golgotha, that is, skulls, had reference to place. St. Paul (Heb. 13:11), assigns the fourfold reasons—literal, allegorical, anagogical, tropological—why our Lord was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem (see Commentary on). St. Jerome, St. Augustine, &c., say, it was on the same mountain Abraham was about to offer up Isaac—a distinguished typo of Christ—for, Mount Moria is in the vicinity of Calvary.

Mt 27:34. “And they gave Him wine,” &c. In some Greek copies, for wine we read ὄξος, vinegar. However, St. Jerome and St. Hilary read, wine, as in our Vulgate. St. Mark (Mk 15:23), has, “wine mixed with myrrh.” The most probable mode of reconciling this discrepancy is, that the Greek word, ὄξος, vinegar, sometimes denotes a poor sort of wine, and the Greek word for “gall,” χολῆ, sometimes means, a bitter drug. It is used by the LXX. to signify, absinthium, so that it denotes the same thing with the myrrh, referred to by St. Mark. It may be, that both ingredients, “myrrh” and “gall,” were added, to render it more bitter. It was customary, before crucifixion, to give persons, about to be executed, a potion, out of pity and humanity, in order to give them some consolation and refreshment, and also to strengthen them to bear their torments with greater fortitude. But, such was the malice of the Jews, that this potion was converted into a nauseous, bitter draught, not to be endured. The drink here given is different from that referred to (Mt 27:48), and by St. Luke (Lk 23:36), St. John (Jn 19:29). In the former are verified the words of the Psalmist, “dederunt in escam meam fel;” in the latter, “et in siti mea potaverunt me aceto.” The former was given before His crucifixion, and it was wine; the latter, in the crucifixion, and it was vinegar.

“And when He had tasted, He would not drink.” He “tasted” it, lest He might seem, from indignation, to despise it. “He would not drink,” that is, swallow it, being determined to submit to the painful death of the cross, without any mitigation or alleviation of His sufferings. He refused to partake of the draught usually presented to criminals on the point of crucifixion, out of feelings of humanity, to mitigate their sufferings. Others, who do not admit that the Jews would present this drink to our Lord, from such a benevolent motive, say, His object in refusing was, to show His horror of the inhuman malice of His enemies.

Mt 27:35. “After they had crucified Him.” It is observed by some commentators (A. Lapide, &c.), that St. Matthew, in referring to the crucifixion of his Divine Master, not only indulges in his usual brevity in narrative; but, that he also, from a feeling of horror, at the indignity and atrocity of this punishment being inflicted on the Son of God, represents it, not so much as present—it being a thing too much to bear—but as past, “after they had crucified Him.” It is a point of faith, that it was with nails, which pierced His hands and feet, our Redeemer was fastened to the cross (John 20:25, &c.; Psa. 22), “foderunt manus meas,” &c. It may be that cords were also used to fasten His body to the cross. Some say, that a sort of prop was fastened to the cross, on which His feet could rest. But, this is unlikely, as our Redeemer did not stand, but was suspended from the cross (Acts 5:30; Gal. 3:13). The number of nails employed is also disputed. Some say, there were four. Others, only three; one through each hand; and one through both His feet, placed one over the other. One of these nails may be at present seen at the Church S. Crucis, at Rome. I myself, had the happiness of reverently touching it with my beads and pectoral cross. Very likely, the two thieves were also hung on the cross with nails; as, otherwise, St. Helena could have no difficulty in recognising our Redeemer’s cross, from the track of the nails; whereas, it was only by a miracle it could be ascertained which was the true cross. It is most likely, that these rough nails were driven through the palms of the hands, where the sense of touch is most acute. This opinion derives great probability from the words of the Prophet Zacharias, “quid sunt plagæ istæ in medio manuum tuarum?” (Zech 13:6). Others say, the nails were driven through His wrists, where the touch is most acutely sensitive, and, obliquely passing through the wood, came out at the surface of His hand, thus rendering the wound larger, and the pain more intense.

The intensity of our Redeemer’s tortures may be estimated from the nature of the wounds inflicted—the boring of His hands, &c.—from the weight of His body hanging from His perforated hands and feet—from their continuance for three hours—from the dislocation of His limbs, “foderunt … dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea.” (Psa. 22)

Tertullian (Lib. contra Judeos, c. 13), asserts, that He wore the crown of thorns on the cross. This is rejected by others, who say, that after having mocked Him, the soldiers took away the mock ensigns of royalty, and led Him forth to Calvary in His own clothes.

It would occupy, and perhaps, needlessly, too much space to enumerate the causes, literal and moral, which made our Redeemer submit to the ignominious death of the cross, in preference to any other, both on the part of the Jews, and of His eternal Father. The Jews had chosen it for the ignominy it entailed, and thus to abolish the name of Christ for ever. The Heavenly Father had chosen it, as most suitable to confound the folly of human pride; as the most suitable means of reparation, viz., by means of wood, our ruin having been brought about by means of the wood of the tree in Paradise; as most suitable, to show forth the excessive charity of God for us, in submitting to so ignominious and painful a death, and the severity of His justice, which demanded such reparation for sin, &c. Some commentators say that our Redeemer was crucified with His face towards the west, with His back to Jerusalem, to show the election of the Gentiles and reprobation of the Jews. Thus were also verified the words of Jeremias (Jer 18:17), “I shall show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their destruction.” “Oculi ejus super Gentes respiciunt” (Psa. 66:7).

The day of our Redeemer’s crucifixion was the 25th of March; the hour, about midday. St. John says, it was “the sixth hour” (Jn 19:14), from sunrise, which was midday. “It was the third hour,” according to St. Mark (Mk 15:25). But, he means “the third hour,” now closing, which was the commencement of the sixth hour. For, each hour in the computation of their four watches contained three hours among the Jews and Romans. Tertullian (Lib. contra Marcion), and others, say, that our Lord was crucified on the same day, in the vernal equinox, on which Adam was created, and was crucified at the same hour, at which he ate the forbidden fruit.

“They divided His garments,” &c. The four Evangelists describe the division of the garments, the inscription of the title, and the crucifixion of the two robbers, not in the same order. St. Mark (Mk 15:24, &c.), follows the same order of narrative with St. Matthew. St. Luke (Lk 23:33, &c.), describes the crucifixion of the robbers first; then, the division of the garments, and finally, the inscription of the title. St. John, whose order of narrative is deemed the most accurate, as he wrote after the others (Jn 19:18, &c.), places the crucifixion of the robbers first, the title next, and the division of the garments in the last place.

The words of our Redeemer on the cross, described by St. Luke (Lk 23:34), “Father, forgive them,” &c., should be inserted before these words, in the order of narrative. Then, “they divided His garments, casting lots.” This is more circumstantially and more distinctly narrated by St. John. (Jn 19:23, &c.) He informs us, that the soldiers divided His garments into four parts, so that the soldiers, who were four in number, received a part, each. From the words of the soldiers, in reference to the seamless (inner) garment, “Let us not cut it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” it is clearly inferred, that they cut up into four parts our Lord’s outer garment, according to the form after which the Jewish outer garments should be made (Deut. 22:12). These outer garments had four seams, and four corners, to which strings or fringes should be attached. Some imagine that our Lord wore four outside garments, besides the seamless coat, which was an inside garment, and that the soldiers took one each. But this is improbable. They divided the one outer garment into four parts. In the account of St. John, the words of Scripture are clearly fulfilled, “They divided My garments,” which is implied in the words, “Let us not cut it,” as had been done to the other. “And upon My vesture they cast lots,” which is clearly expressed in the words, “Let us cast lots for it.” From St. Mark, however (Mk 15:24), it would seem, that they cast lots for the four parts into which the vestment was divided. “The coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.” The weaving of it began at the top, or upper part, and it was woven without any seam to the bottom. This “coat,” most probably, worn next His person, Euthymius tells us, was, according to the opinion of the ancients, woven by the hands of His Immaculate Mother. It is now preserved at Treves, and an object of religious worship to the faithful. The same author, after rejecting, as improbable, the opinion of those who assert that our Redeemer had five garments, one for each of the four soldiers, besides the seamless coat, regards it as a probable conjecture, that our Lord had three garments; that, besides the seamless coat, He had a flowing robe, and outside that, one corresponding to a cloak, covering all. For, St. John speaks of our Lord’s garments in the plural: “They took His garments” (Jn 19:23). Nor is this opposed to the mandate He gave His Apostles on the eve of going on their mission. For, there He speaks of two coats of the same kind.

The division of our Lord’s garments into four parts, denoted the extension of the Church to the four corners of the world; while the seamless coat denoted the indivisible unity which heretics alone attempt to rend and cut asunder. As the division of the garments of the two robbers did not contain any mystery, and did not directly belong to the history of our Redeemer’s Passion, the Evangelist says nothing of it, although, it is very probable a like division and distribution took place in their case also, in accordance with the prevailing usage of the time, regarding the destination of the garments of criminals subjected to execution.

What a source of humiliation to our Redeemer to hang naked on a cross, subjected to the derisive gaze of a scoffing multitude, “operuit confusio faciem meam.” (Psa. 59) It must have added to His painful humiliation to see His garments thus divided, as if He were given over to death, and no hopes entertained regarding Him. Probably, in this division of His garments, the soldiers added insulting, jeering taunts, injuriously, and wantonly mocking Him, as if they were dividing among themselves the precious robes of Royalty. This however, added to our Redeemer’s glory, as thus the Scripture of the prophet was fulfilled (Psa. 22:19).

“That the word might he fulfilled,” &c. These words are wanting in many of the ancient Fathers and versions, including many Greek and Latin codices. Hence, many learned critics supposed they were inserted here from St. John (Jn 19:24) by transcribers. However, the authority of the Vulgate outweighs all these, the more so, in this instance, if it be borne in mind, that of all the Evangelists, St. Matthew is most careful and desirous to show everywhere, that the ancient prophecies were accomplished in our Divine Redeemer.

Mt 27:36. “Watched Him.” The Greek adds, ἐκεῖ, there, on Mount Calvary. The soldiers who acted as Lictors, and the Jews also kept watch, lest any of His disciples should come and take Him down, or He Himself might miraculously descend from the cross. But, contrary to their designs, this only tended to the glory of Christ, in removing any grounds for doubting the truth of His resurrection. Had they themselves not watched Him, they might have charged His disciples with having taken Him down alive from the cross. It also shows their fears, arising from remorse of conscience.

Mt 27:37. “And they,” that is, the soldiers, His executioners, by the command of Pilate (John 19:19), “put over His head,” that is, on the portion of the cross, which was above His head, “His cause written,” that is, the alleged crime for which He was condemned to death. Mark (Mk 15:26) calls it, “the inscription of His cause;” Luke (Lk 23:38), “a superscription;” John (Jn 19:19), “a title.” They all mean the same thing, viz., the words written, or, rather, legibly cut on a board or tablet placed over His head, and indicating to all the charge on which He was condemned to death. It is not likely, that the words were inscribed on the arm of the cross, placed above His head, as it would hardly contain space enough to have the words inscribed in large, legible characters, in three languages. It is a very ancient Oriental custom to have these titles either attached to every malefactor condemned to death, or borne before him. This title of our Redeemer was written in three languages, which were consecrated on the cross of Christ; the Hebrew, the vernacular of the country; the Greek, then most extensively diffused; and the Latin, on account of the majesty of the Roman Empire. It is given differently by the four Evangelists, who agree, however, in substance. That given by St. John, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is generally considered to be the most exact title, because St. John saw it at the crucifixion, and wrote after the other Evangelists; and also, this corresponds with the title, which, as a most precious relic, is preserved at Rome, in the Church of the Holy Cross. In this relic, the only word perfectly legible is “Nazarenus.” As the Hebrew form, like all Hebrew writings, was written from right to left; so, in the Greek and Latin inscriptions, the same order, contrary to the usual custom, was observed. The writing of the title in three languages, the language of the Jews, and the principal languages among the Gentiles, showed that Christ had suffered for all mankind, and broke down the middle wall of partition between the Jewish and Gentile peoples.

The title showed forth the name of the culprit—“Jesus;” His country, “of Nazareth;” His crime, “King of the Jews.” Although Pilate meant these words to signify (who affected to be) “King of the Jews,” still, by a Divine instinct guiding his hand, he was directed to write, in a still more exalted sense, the real cause of Christ’s crucifixion, viz., that He was crucified because He was really the “King of the Jews,” the long expected Messiah, the eternal Son of God, whom it was meet, according to the ancient prophecies and the decrees of His Heavenly Father, that the Jews would put to death, in order to redeem the human race, and rescue it from the slavery of sin, by the effusion of His most precious blood.

And although the Jews eagerly desired that Pilate would change this “title” (John 19:21)—it may be, they returned from Calvary to Pilate’s house; or Pilate himself might have been at Mount Calvary—still, Pilate obstinately resisted all their solicitations, the providence of God so guiding him, and, very probably, Pilate had in view, now that his fears of being accused before Cæsar were removed by the crucifixion of Christ, to restore to Jesus the honour of which he unjustly deprived Him, by sanctioning the high titles with which He was greeted by His followers. Moreover, he may have wished to take vengeance on the Jews for forcing him to condemn an innocent man, by branding the whole nation with the indelible stigma and the infamy of having crucified their own King. But, whatever might have been Pilate’s intention, God, who had suggested to Pilate the very words of the title, did not allow him to alter it for the reason already referred to, viz., to show that, as according to the prophecies, the King of the Jews was to suffer on a cross; therefore, the true cause on the part of God, why Jesus was crucified, was, that He was really King of the Jews.

Mt 27:38. “Two thieves”—highway robbers and brigands, with whom, owing to the shameful corruption of successive Roman Governors, Judea was then infested—“were crucified with Him.” This was, probably, done by Pilate, as a cloak for his iniquity, lest he should seem to be so influenced by others, as to punish the innocent and spare the guilty. It was also done at the suggestion of the Jews, for the greater humiliation of our Lord, to render Him more infamous, as associated with such wicked characters, well known to be such by all the people. “On the right,” &c. He was suspended in the midst, as the most infamous of the three. But this only tended to the glory of Christ, by verifying the prophecies regarding Him. “Et cum iniquis reputatus fuit” (Isa. 53:12; Mark 15:28).

It also denoted, that all mankind were called to a participation in the fruits of His Passion, who came in the midst of guilty, sinful men, to sanctify all by His innocence; that He would, however, make a distinction between the faithful, represented by the penitent thief, who implored the Divine mercy, and the unbelievers, represented by the impenitent thief, who blasphemed Him, and that the day would come when He would place the former on His right hand, and the latter on His left.

Mt 27:39. “They that passed by,” including those who were accidentally passing, as also those who went out expressly, “and stood beholding Him” (Luke 23:35), “blasphemed Him,” by their jeers and scornful scoffs, reproaching Him with His imputed crimes, so ignominiously punished, and by moving their heads in an insulting, scornful manner. This was predicted (Psa. 109:25). These jeers and reproachful scoffs, addressed to the Son of God—the Holy of Holies—were so many “blasphemies.” Such conduct showed the heartless cruelty and barbarous inhumanity of the Jews. For, the greatest criminals, while enduring torments, claim our commiseration. Hence, they added considerably to the sufferings of our Divine Redeemer. “Whom thou hast smitten, they have persecuted” (Psa. 69:27).

Mt 27:40. “And saying: Vah,” &c. “Vah,” an interjection, denoting derision and scorn, similar to “fie” with us; as much as to say, Thou impious, shameless braggart. It is not found now in the Greek versions. The Greek of it in other places of SS. Scripture is, ναὶ, corresponding with the Hebrew, Heah. It has reference to Psalm 35:21, the same as Euge, Euge, for which the Hebrew is Heah.

“Thou, that destroyest,” &c. The Greek means, Thou destroyer of the temple, &c., and builder of it … save Thyself, &c., that is, show now that Thou canst carry out Thy foolish boasting by saving Thyself from an ignominious death. “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Similar was the suggestion of the devil, “si filius Dei es, mitte te deorsum” (Mt 4:6), equally foolish and perverse. For, it is because He is Son of God, He should remain and die the death of the cross, to vanquish death itself, “ero mors tua, O mors;” and it is rather by His rising from the tomb, than by His descent from the cross, He should prove Himself to be the Son of God.

Mt 27:41. “In like manner also, the Chief Priests,” &c. Another class, who insulted our Lord on the cross.

Mt 27:42. “He saved others,” &c. The reproaches of the Chief Priests, &c., against our Lord, speaking to one another, were still more malignant than those of the people. They scoff at His miracles, whereby He saved others from death, and insinuate that they came not from God, but from Beelzebub. If His miracles were performed by the power of God, God would now save Him from an ignominious death; and hence, they insinuate, that He was an impostor and false prophet. They next reproach Him with the assumption of Royal dignity: “If He be the King of Israel”—in allusion to the “title” placed on His cross by Pilate—“let Him descend from the cross.” In this they show themselves deserving of censure, inasmuch as they had no reason for thinking that His descending from the cross would prove Him to be “the King of Israel,” and the promised Messiah. On the contrary, it was because He was the King of Israel and the promised Messiah, He would remain on the cross to redeem the world. They also state an untruth, that in the event of His descending from the cross, they would believe in Him, as is proved by their not believing in Him after a still greater miracle of His power displayed, in His resurrection. They would have rather ascribed His coming down from the cross to magic and diabolical agency, to which they often before attributed His other miracles.

Mt 27:43. They add a third subject of reproach, viz., His vain and presumptuous confidence in God. But this confidence in God on the part of a man in great straits, should be rather a subject of praise than of reproach; and these men falsely judge, that a release from suffering should result from confidence in God; whereas, the contrary frequently happens in the case of the greatest saints; God, for their greater good, thus testing their virtue. In these jeering scoffs of the High Priests, &c., are literally fulfilled the prophecy regarding Christ, in whose Person the Royal Psalmist speaks (Psa. 22:8). The Passion of our Lord is the subject of that Psalm. To the same, reference is made (Wisdom 2:16-17), where, in the person of the Jews, the Wise man says, “He glorieth that He hath God for His Father. Let us see then if His words are true,” &c.; (Wis 2:21), “These things they thought and were deceived, for their own malice blinded them.”

“Let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him,” that is, if He loves Him. But the very reverse would be the result. It is because God loved Him, as His well-beloved Son, He subjected Him to the death of the cross.

Mt 27:44. St. Luke (Lk 23:36) mentions a third class, who mocked and scoffed at our Lord on the cross, viz., the soldiers, who acted as His executioners. He was finally mocked by the robbers who were crucified along with Him, as SS. Matthew and Mark testify. The Evangelists use the word, “thieves,” in the plural number, by a figure quite common in Scripture, by which the plural is employed for the singular. Thus it is said (Luke 23:36), “the soldiers offered Him vinegar,” whereas only one soldier did so. Only one of the thieves reviled our Lord (Luke 23:40). Whether the penitent thief, in the first instance, joined his associate in reviling our Lord, and became afterwards converted, is disputed; but the most common opinion among the Latin Fathers is, that he did not, from first to last, revile our Blessed Lord. St. Luke circumstantially relates what is only expressed here in general words by St. Matthew. He also describes the conversion of the penitent thief, and the promise of salvation made to him by our Redeemer. (Lk 23:39, &c.)

Mt 27:45. Before this, should be inserted in historical order the words addressed by our Blessed Lord to St. John and His own Blessed Virgin Mother (John 19:25–27).

“From the sixth hour there was darkness,” &c. As the crucifixion of our Lord occurred at the vernal equinoxes, when the days and nights are equal, “the sixth hour” corresponded with our twelve o’clock, the sun having risen at six in the morning, and set at six in the evening. The darkness occurred at the time the sun occupies the highest place in the heavens, and his light is brightest, which sets forth in the clearest manner, the preternatural quality of the darkness referred to.

Eusebius, in his Chronicle, and other ecclesiastical writers, quote a passage from Phlegon, in his History of the Olympiads, in which he says that “in the fourth year of the 202 Olympiad, there occurred the greatest eclipse ever known. It was night at the sixth hour, that is, twelve o’clock at mid-day, and the stars were visible.” He also speaks of an earthquake, at the same time, at Bithynia. These authors entertain no doubt whatever of the identity of this eclipse and the earthquake with those which occurred at the death of Christ. Their date is the same. The fourth year of the 202 Olympiad commenced in the summer of the 32nd year of our era, and closed at the summer solstice of the 33rd year—the year in which it is almost universally agreed our Redeemer was crucified—the hour of the day the same, mid-day—the earthquake and darkness simultaneous in both cases. The eclipse must have been preternatural, as it could not take place, in the natural course, at full moon. Moreover, according to the Astronomical Tables, there had not been an eclipse of the sun in the 33rd year of our era—the year referred to by Phlegon. But there had been one in the 29th year of our era, on the 24th of November, at nine o’clock in the morning, which could have no connexion with that mentioned by Phlegon (Bergier, Dict. Theol. Eclipse).

Owing to the mention of “the sixth hour,” by St. Matthew, a question is here raised about reconciling St. Mark and St. John, regarding the precise hour of the crucifixion. There is no even apparent discrepancy between the other Evangelists. St. Mark (Mk 15:25) says, “It was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” St. John (Jn 19:14–16) says, “It was about the sixth hour,” when Pilate condemned Him to the death of the cross. To reconcile these apparently conflicting statements—for, it is quite certain from the Evangelists, that our Lord was crucified after He was condemned—has caused interpreters no small perplexity. Some would have it, that there was an error of copyists, who transcribed third for sixth, or sixth for third, in either of the Evangelists, the Greek letter which designates three (γ) being mistaken for (ς) which designates the number six. In which—Mark or John—the mistake occurred, is also a matter of dispute. The greater extrinsic authority is in favour of the correctness of the reading of St. Mark, in regard to which there is no variety of codices; whereas, in some codices, there is a variety, as regards St. John. For instance, the Codex of Cambridge, and one of the Royal codices, dated the eighth century, have the third hour instead of the sixth in St. John. Some of the ancient writers quoted by Griesbach (Novum. Testam. Græce in Joan 19:14), are in favour of the reading of these codices. Among those writers is the author of the Paschal Chronicle, who says, “that in the copy of the Gospel written by St. John’s own hand, and preserved in the Church of the Ephesians,” the third hour is found instead of the sixth. Patrizzi (Annot. c. xcv.) seems to lean to this opinion. The mode of reconcoiling both Evangelists, commonly adopted by those who maintain the accuracy of the reading in both is as follows: By hour, they understand, not common hours of sixty minutes each, but great hours, containing each, three common hours. According to the division of time, introduced by the Romans, and adopted by the Jews (see Mt 20:1), the day was divided into four equal parts, each part containing three common hours, and the night, into four equal parts, or watches, of three hours each. Following this computation of time, these interpreters say, both accounts are perfectly consistent, as our Lord was crucified towards the close of the great hour, termed the third, which commenced at nine o’clock, and terminated at twelve. And “about the sixth hour,” viz., some time before twelve o’clock, when the great hour termed the sixth, commenced. For, the four great hours were termed—first, commencing at six, and terminating at nine o’clock; third, commencing at nine, and terminating at twelve; sixth, commencing at twelve, and ending at three p.m.; and ninth, commencing at three, and ending with six, or sunset. Mauduit undertakes to refute this opinion in a Dissertation (xxxvi), in which the reasoning is more specious than solid.

For, the first great hour commenced at sunrise, corresponding at the equinoxes with our six o’clock, and ending at nine. The next great hour, termed “third,” from the common hour immediately preceding, commenced at nine, and ended at twelve o’clock, or mid-day. The next, termed sixth, commenced at twelve o’clock, and ended at three p.m., and the next, or last great hour, termed ninth, commenced at three o’clock, and terminated at six, or sunset.

As regards the darkness which took place at the crucifixion of our Lord, there is a great diversity of opinion as to its nature and extent. That the darkness was preternatural, can hardly be questioned by any Christian. If produced by a total eclipse of the sun, it must be preternatural; for, it occurred when it was full moon, and the sun in the opposite side of the heavens, it being Jewish Paschal time, which always took place on the fourteenth of the moon. Moreover, a total eclipse can naturally last only a quarter of an hour at most; whereas, this lasted three hours. Some interpreters suppose the darkness to be caused by the preternatural accumulation of the densest clouds, similar to that preternaturally brought on the land of Egypt, by the stretching forth of the hand of Moses. At all events, from whatever cause proceeding, it would seem, from what is recorded as happening near the cross, that the darkness was not so dense as that the bystanders could not see one another, or see what was passing.

As to the extent of this darkness, those who have recourse to the hypothesis of a thick mist, arising from sulphureous vapours, such as precede and accompany earthquakes, limit it, as a matter of course, to the vicinity of Jerusalem. Origen and some others confine it to the land of Judea, a signification which the words, the “entire earth,” sometimes bear in SS. Scripture. These say, if we confine it to the land of Judea, it would more forcibly point out the heavy anger of God, forcibly shadowed forth, as about to fall on the Jewish nation in particular, in punishment of the horrible crime of Deicide, the guilt and consequences of which they invoked “on themselves, and on their children.” Most of the ancient Fathers and writers, and many eminent modern interpreters, understand it to extend to the entire earth. In proof of this universal extension of the darkness, they quote the positive declaration of three Evangelists; also, the authority of Thallus, in his Syriac Histories, from which, though now lost, passages are quoted by Tertullian, Eusebius, &c., with whom Phlegon, already quoted, is perfectly in accord. We are told by Suidas, that Dionysius, the Areopagite, who was at Hieropolis, in Egypt, at this time, on observing this eclipse of the sun, said to his friend, Apollophanus, “aut Deus naturæ patitur, aut mundi machina dissolvitur.” These events were recorded in the annals of the Roman Empire. Tertullian, in his apology, refers the unbelievers of his day to these archives, in proof of the phenomena which occurred at the death of Christ, “Eum mundi casum”—referring to the eclipse—“relatum in Archivis vestris habetis.” Some writers, however, attach no great weight to these latter testimonies. They question whether Thallus lived before Christ, and they endeavour to show that the writings, ascribed to Dionysius, are spurious. In their objections to the universal extension of the darkness, they go too far, judging of what was clearly preternatural, as they would of the occurrence of merely natural phenomena.

The Fathers, all of whom (except Origen, who is followed by Maldonatus), hold the universal extension of the darkness, say, the sun withheld his light, out of sympathy with his Lord, so as not to witness such a horrid act of parricide as the Jews committed, in crucifying the Author of life, the great Creator of the universe. “It appears to me,” says St. Jerome, “that the great luminary of the world hid his rays, not to witness the Lord hanging on the cross, and not to afford light to the impious blasphemers.” Most likely, the Almighty had in view, in the phenomena which occurred at the crucifixion, to prove the Divinity of His Son, and confute those who challenged Him, “si filius Dei est, descendat de cruce,” &c.

Mt 27:46. “And about the ninth hour,” &c., corresponding with our three o’clock in the afternoon. St. Mark says, “At the ninth hour.” But, there is no contradiction, as men usually say a thing happened at the ninth, which happened about that hour, whether shortly before or shortly after it. It would seem that nothing occurred, and that silence prevailed from the sixth till the ninth hour; that, during the darkness, the Jews were seized with awe. Similar silence prevailed during the Egyptian darkness, which was a type of that occurring at the death of our Lord.

“Jesus cried with a loud voice.” This loud cry was manifestly preternatural, as always, when men are either dying or in dread of death, the voice first fails, and becomes weak. “Eli, Eli, lamma Sabacthani.” These words commence the twenty-first Psalm, and our Redeemer, by using them, wishes to convey to the Jews, that He was the subject of this Psalm; that David spoke in His person, and that the entire Psalm, which minutely describes, beforehand, His Passion, was literally fulfilled in Him. In this Psalm, according to the Septuagint rendering, the pronoun, “My,” is expressed but once, “O God, My God,” and the words, “look upon Me,” are inserted. But, the Hebrew has it, as spoken here by our Lord, according to the narrative of the Evangelists. Instead of “Sabacthani,” the Hebrew in the Psalm is Azabtani; but, it is to be borne in mind, that after their return from the Babylonish captivity, the Jews spoke not the pure Hebrew, but the Syro-Chaldaic, in which language our Redeemer on the cross said, “Sabacthani,” the Chaldaic, for “Azabtani.” St. Mark (Mk 15:34), has, “Eloi, Eloi.” This signifies the same as “Eli, Eli.” But, most likely, it was the latter form our Redeemer used, as this would give clearer grounds for the mistake on the part of those who overheard Him, that He called for Elias.

“Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Our Redeemer made use of this vehement appeal not as a question having for object to ascertain what He did not know; for, He knew all things. It is merely a complaint, uttered for the purpose of awakening our attention to the cause of His mysterious abandonment by His Father, for the purpose of conveying to us, that He was abandoned, because He became a vicarious offering in our place, to atone for the sins of the world, and to cause us to inquire, why He was abandoned, and thus to increase our love and gratitude. These words are said by some of the holy Fathers, to have been uttered in the person of sinners, for whom He suffered. This, they say, the following words would show: “Longe a salute mea verba delictorum mcorum” (Psa. 22). They may be also a prayer, entreating His Heavenly Father to put an end to His sufferings, and to allow them to continue no longer, “exauditus est pro sua reverentia” (Heb. 10:7). The word, “forsaken,” merely signifies, that He was left to suffer fearful torments without being rescued from them; or, it may mean, that His Divinity withdrew from His human nature every, even the slightest, consolation.

Our Lord thus conveys to us, that, although He bore all this meekly and uncomplainingly, in the course of His Passion; that, while His great patience, His praying for His persecutors, His tender solicitude for His Blessed Mother, &c., might lead men to suppose He suffered but little; still, He suffered most intensely on the cross, as He did in the garden, when He prayed that, “this bitter chalice might pass away,” &c. From the words our Lord uttered after this, it would seem He had been alive on the cross after “the ninth hour,” as He had been affixed to the same cross before the sixth. Hence, He hung on the cross more than three hours, which shows us the extent of His suffering, and is calculated to challenge our deepest gratitude and love. It is to the loud cry, “My God,” &c., St. Paul refers, when he says, “qui, cum clamore magno,” &c. (Heb. 5:7).

The shocking blasphemy of Calvin, who says, this loud cry proceeded from despair, on the part of our Lord, is sufficiently refuted by His dying words, so full of sweetness and calm resignation, “in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”

The seven last words of our Redeemer on the cross are—1. “Father, forgive them,” &c. (Luke 23:34). 2. “Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). 3. “Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy mother” (John 19:26, 27). 4. “Eli, Eli,” &c., here. 5. “I thirst” (John 19:28). 6. “It is consummated.” 7. “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Mt 27:47. St. Jerome understands this of the Roman soldiers, who, having heard from the Jews that Elias was to return at the coming of the Messiah, ignorant of the Syro-Chaldaic idiom, imagined our Redeemer was calling on Elias, when He exclaimed, “Eli, Eli,” &c.; and this derives probability from the fact, that it was the Roman soldiers that gave Him the vinegar (Luke 23:36). Should it refer to the Jews, St. Jerome is of opinion, that they, intentionally perverting our Lord’s words, in derision of His claims to be the Messiah, affected to think He called on Elias, for the purpose of attributing weakness to Him, in calling on Elias to come to His aid.

Mt 27:48. St. John (Jn 19:28) gives the connexion between this and the foregoing. He says, that our Redeemer, in order “that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” viz., the words of the Psalmist, “in siti mea aceto me potaverunt” (Psa. 69:22), said, “I thirst.” Such thirst was the natural effect of the exquisite tortures He had been enduring—of the almost entire effusion of His sacred blood. He had, morever, tasted nothing from the preceding evening, and He was parched from continual journeyings, watching, and afflictions. The words convey to us His ardent thirst for the salvation of souls. A vessel of vinegar was usually at hand on occasion of crucifixion, according to some, for the purpose, in case of fainting, of reviving the exhausted vital spirits of the sufferers. In the present instance, it is maintained that the vinegar was given by the Roman soldiers, not only for the purpose of deriding Him (Luke 23:36), as mock King of the Jews, but also, for the purpose of torturing Him with the bitter draught which caused still greater thirst, and of prolonging His tortures. Others maintain, that it was rather for the purpose of accelerating His death the vinegar was given, as vinegar has the effect of penetrating and instilling its virulence into all the wounds and members of the body, and thus accelerating death. The Roman soldiers were anxious for this, as the day was far gone, and the hour for dinner long past.

“One of them,” the soldiers (Luke 23:36), “took a sponge, and filed it with vinegar.” There was a vessel of vinegar placed there (John 19:29). The “sponge,” which absorbed the fluid, was more convenient for ministering a drink than a vessel would be, to one raised aloft. He could suck out of the sponge the fluid it absorbed. “And put it on a reed.” St. John (Jn 19:29) tells us, the “reed” was a stalk of hyssop, around which they fastened the sponge. A certain kind of “hyssop” grows longer in the East than with us. This was sufficiently long to reach, with the outstretched hand of a man, the mouth of our Redeemer, suspended on the cross.

Mt 27:49. “And the others said: Let be, let us see,” &c. The meaning of “let be” is, hold, be easy, disregarding everything else, “let us see,” &c. The words, “let be,” is read in the singular here, “sine,” as if addressed by the bystanders and soldiers to the man who gave him the bitter potion, as if to say, cease from giving Him vinegar, which may accelerate His death before Elias comes, who may find Him dead on his arrival; or, in the opinion of those who hold, that the vinegar had rather the effect of prolonging life, stay, do not prevent Him from being refreshed with vinegar, in order that, by prolonging His life, we may “see whether Elias will come,” &c. In consequence of the phenomena which accompanied our Redeemer’s death, they doubt whether He was not the Messias, whose precursor, both Jews and Christians believed Elias to be; and this the Roman soldiers, most likely, heard from the Jews. St. Mark (Mk 15:36) employs the words, “stay ye,” in the plural, sinite, as if addressed to the bystanders by the soldier who administered the vinegar. Likely, both versions are true. The soldier addressed the bystanders, and they, in turn, addressed him, according to the meaning already assigned. Some even understand the words to mean, “stay,” that is, keep aloof, leave Him alone, as it is only when alone, Elias who would not come in a crowd, will approach Him. This potion was different from that in verse 34; both were given in different circumstances.

Mt 27:50. “With a loud voice,” which was preternatural; since, a man’s voice on the point of expiring, fails and becomes weak. But, in the case of our Lord, His voice was preternaturally and miraculously restored. And He cried out “with a loud voice,” to show the perfect voluntariness of His death; and that it took place, not through any failure of the powers of nature. “He had power to lay down His life, and power to take it up again” (John 10:18); and also to show, that He was God, which the centurion inferred from this fact (Mark 15:39). St. Luke (Lk 23:46) tells us, He uttered, with a loud voice, the words, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit,” as if to say, He deposited His soul with Him, because He was to resume it again. St. John (Jn 19:30) tells us, “And bowing down His head, He gave up the ghost.” He bowed down His head before giving up the ghost, which is done by all other men after expiring, to show He did so voluntarily, and not from any infirmity. “He commends His spirit,” as a deposit, into the hands of His Heavenly Father, from whom He is shortly to receive it back, to be united to His body at the Resurrection.

Mt 27:51. “And behold.” St. Augustine observes, that “behold” shows these things to have happened, in consequence of and after the death of Christ; hence, what St. Luke states (Lk 23:45) is mentioned by anticipation. “The veil of the temple.” Josephus tells us (Lib. 5 de Bel. Jud., c. 5), that there were two veils in the temple—the one, before the Holy place or Sanctum; the other, before the Sanctum Sanctorum. It is not agreed among the ancients which of these two veils was rent in two. The words of St. Paul to the Hebrews 10, would add weight to the opinion which understand it of the inner veil; and this was properly, “the veil.” Various reasons are assigned for this. Besides the general reason affecting all these prodigies that occurred at the death of Christ, viz., that they had for object to show His power and Divinity, and to show forth the detestation of Jewish barbarity towards the Son of God, there are special reasons assigned also, and among these, as regards the rending of the veil, is, that it was meant to show, by a very bold figure of speech, that the temple could not stand the shocking impiety practised towards its Lord and Master, and that it manifested its horror by rending its garments, in imitation of the Jewish people on occasions of impiety, and especially of blasphemy. It was also mystically meant, to teach us that the mysteries of the law, hitherto concealed before the coming of Christ, were now clearly made known to us, by the faith secured to us through the death of Christ; and also to show us, that the road to heaven, the true sanctuary, typified by the Sanctum Sanctorum, was now opened to mankind, by His death (Heb. 9:8).

“And the earth quaked.” This was meant to show the Divinity of our Redeemer, the Lord of heaven and earth. He it was that caused this quaking of the earth, in virtue of His Divine power, of which the earthquake is a striking indication. It also meant, as did the splitting of the rocks, to mark the natural horror which all creatures felt at the shocking crime of the Jews, and their sympathy with the Lord of creation in His barbarous sufferings. The quaking of the earth is sometimes employed in Scripture, to denote the anger of the Almighty. (Psa. 18, &c.) It is the opinion of some, that this was the same as the earthquake which happened in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, the greatest on record. It is mentioned by Pliny and Macrobius. The latter tells us, it destroyed no less than twelve cities in Asia. Origen and others, however, maintain, that the present earthquake went no farther than the Temple of Jerusalem, and the portions mentioned in SS. Scriptures, viz., the veil, the rocks, the tombs, &c.; and they seem to think the confining of the earthquake to Jerusalem and the temple, &c., would more clearly indicate, beforehand, the destruction of the Jewish temple and worship, in punishment of Jewish impiety, in crucifying the Lord of glory.

“And the rods were rent.” St. Cyril (Catechesi 13) tells us, traces of this are visible in Calvary to the present day. Shaw, the Oriental traveller, tells us, after minutely examining everything on Calvary, that the aperture in the rock on Calvary is a miracle, which must inspire one with feelings of religious awe and wonder. Millar, in his history of the Propagation of Christianity, states, that a Deist was converted on seeing that the fissures in the rock were contrary to what takes place in ordinary earthquakes, as these immense fissures were not according to the veins and weakest parts of the rock. These extraordinary events, which could not be considered fortuitous, indicate the atrocity of Jewish impiety, the anger of God, the Divinity of our Lord, the hard, stony hearts of His crucifiers, who stood unmoved, while the very rocks were melted unto pity.

Mt 27:52. “And the graves were opened,” in virtue of the efficacy of the death of Christ, who, though crucified, was the Lord of life and death, who conquered death, and restored life to man. Whether the graves were opened immediately on the death of Christ, or only after His resurrection, is disputed. Some maintain, that the graves were now opened, in order to show that it was done, in virtue of Christ’s Passion; but, that it was only after our Lord’s resurrection, the dead arose; because it was meet, that He who was the first-born among the dead, “the first-fruits of them that sleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), should be the first to rise, and then others after Him. Others, who cannot see the meaning of graves opening, without the dead arising, maintain, that it was only after the resurrection the graves were opened. So that the entire of these two verses (Mt 27:52–53), are affected by the words (v. 53), “after His resurrection.” But, that St. Matthew records the events mentioned in this verse by anticipation, in connexion with the death of Christ; because, it was in virtue of the merits of His death, they occurred.

“Many bodies of the saints”—reanimated and reunited to their souls—“arose,” from the slumbers of the tomb, to enter on an immortal life. It is most likely, that these never again returned to the tomb; but, that they were brought by our Lord into heaven, as so many trophies to grace the triumph of His ascension. This is the common opinion of modern commentators. Nor are the words of St. Paul (Heb. 11:40) opposed to this, as there reference is made to the laws affecting the General Resurrection of all; here, to a special and exceptional privilege.

Mt 27:53. The Evangelist mentions, by anticipation, the events of this verse and the preceding; because, they belong to the prodigies having immediate connexion with the death of Christ.

“The Holy City,” Jerusalem, so long consecrated to the true worship of God, where stood His holy Temple; and although now polluted by the crimes of the Jews, still, it was, hitherto, the seat of His religion, consecrated by the presence and miracles of the Son of God, and the mysteries of His life, death, and resurrection. In it, was accomplished the work of Redemption; and from it, the Gospel of Salvation was sent forth into the entire earth.

“They came into the Holy City”—the graves being outside the walls—“and appeared to many,” to those witnesses alone pre-ordained by God; to those whose faith it was important to have confirmed, as our Lord Himself appeared not to all the people, but to His Apostles, &c. Who these “saints,” thus raised to life, were, cannot be known for certain. It is most likely, they belonged to that class who had some peculiar relation to Christ, either of descent, or promise, or type, or hope, or faith, or chastity, or sanctity, such as Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Melchisedech, David, Job, Jonas, Moses, Josue, Samuel, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechial, and the other prophets; and, most likely, some of them belonged to those, who lately died in sanctity and in the faith, such as Simeon, &c. The fact of their having been recognized by their contemporaries, would prove that they were not long dead. However, the ancient Fathers and Prophets might, from certain peculiar qualities, be recognized by the Jews existing at this time, and especially, by the favoured persons, those “many” to whom they appeared. The object of their resurrection was, doubtless, to show that the power of the grave was destroyed by the life and immortality purchased for us by Christ; and thus to serve as a pledge of the General Resurrection; and also to be the associates, witnesses, and heralds of His resurrection.

Mt 27:54. “The centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus.” St. Mark (Mk 15:39) says, “The centurion who stood over against Him, having seen the earthquake and the things that were done,” viz., the darkness, splitting of the rocks, &c.; but especially seeing that He gave up the ghost, loudly crying out in this manner (Mark, ibidem), “were greatly afraid,” lest the vengeance which they felt assured, God would inflict for the murder of His Son, would, in the first instance, fall on themselves, as His executioners. St. Luke says (Lk 23:47), “The centurion … glorified God,” by his faith and confession of the truth, “saying: Indeed this was a just man.” St. Mark (Mk 15:39), “Indeed this man was the Son of God.” It is very likely, the centurion and the soldiers said both, viz., that He was a “just man,” unjustly punished; nay, what He proclaimed Himself to be, “truly the Son of God,” whose Divinity these wonderful events proclaimed.

They heard the Jews say, our Lord was crucified for proclaiming Himself the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Hence, seeing the wonders wrought in attestation of it, they at once proclaim Him to be what He said He was, viz., the natural Son of God. These may be regarded as the earliest among the Gentiles, whom the merits of Christ’s Passion and His grace reached, and also the first-fruits of Christ’s prayer on the cross for His persecutors. St. Luke (Lk 23:48) assures us, that not only the Roman centurion and his associates, but also that “all the multitude who came together to that sight and saw the things that were done, returned striking their breasts,” partly from feelings of sorrow and detestation of the horrid deed now perpetrated, in which they had concurred; and partly, from fear of the vengeance it would entail. These might be regarded, as shadowing forth the conversion of the Jews, which took place especially at the following Pentecost. There is no mention made of the Chief Priests becoming converted, or being any way affected by the death of Christ.

Mt 27:55. “And there were many women afar off,” that is, viewing our Redeemer’s sufferings from a distance, as the Greek words (ἀπὸ μακρόθεν) signify. That the Blessed Virgin was among those present and near the cross, we learn from St. John (Jn 19:25); so near that our Redeemer could address her. Very likely, the women referred to here, may have been sometimes near the cross, and at other times, farther away from it, owing to the soldiers and crowds who came to see the spectacle. These women are here commended for their constancy and love, for having followed Him, and having after the Apostles deserted Him, stood by His cross, witnesses of His patience and meekness, and death—for having followed Him far away from their own country, and for having administered to Him and His, by their personal services and kind offices, and for having out of their own means supplied His wants.

Mt 27:56. “Among whom was Mary Magdalen,” commonly supposed to be the same, of whom mention is made as the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Out of her, our Lord had cast seven devils, and, now, from gratitude for the recovery of health of mind and body, she follows Him unto death. “And Mary, the mother of James and Joseph.” She is called, “Mary of Cleophas,” from her husband, Cleophas. She was the sister of the Blessed Virgin (John 19:25).

“And the mother of the sons of Zebedee,” called Salome (Mark 15:40). There were others besides. But these are specially mentioned as being the most remarkable in their pious offices to our Blessed Lord. Moreover, these remained for His sepulture, when the others went away. It is very probable, that St. John took the Blessed Virgin away from the scene of sorrow immediately after the death of her beloved Son. St. Luke says (Lk 23:49), “And all His acquaintance, and the women … stood afar off.” From this it appears, that some men also were there, as contradistinguished from the “women.” Thus were verified the words of the Psalmist, “amici mei et proximi mei … et qui juxta me erant, de lunge steterunt.”

The words, “all His acquaintance,” are not meant to convey, that all His acquaintance were there even at a distance, but only that such as were recognizable there—and St. John is the only one of whom express mention is made in the Gospel—were at a distance, and this latter is to be understood in a comparative sense. They were at a distance, compared with the soldiers and the crowd that were insulting Him; but, still near enough to witness His sufferings and hear His voice whenever He spoke. Here in due order of narrative should be inserted some occurrences mentioned by St. John only, in the history of our Lord’s Passion (John 19:31–37).

Mt 27:57. “When it was evening,” when evening approached, shortly before sunset; for, as the Sabbath commenced at sunset, they could, then, take no active steps towards taking down from the cross, or burying the body of Jesus.

“There came a certain rich man,” &c. This is mentioned, because, no poor or humble man could approach the Roman Governor on such a business. “Of Arimathea.” He was a native of this place, or sprung from it, although it is thought he resided at Jerusalem, as appears from his having hewed “his own monument out of rock,” &c. (Mt 27:60.) Arimathea was a town of Judea which St. Jerome tells us was the same as “Ramathaim Sophim” (1 Sam 1), eighteen or twenty miles north-west of Jerusalem. “Named Joseph.” This minute description gains greater credit for the narrative. It was a name celebrated in the history of the people of God, rendered specially illustrious by the Patriarch, Joseph, the son of Jacob; and another Joseph, still more illustrious, the foster-father of the Son of God. “Who also himself was a disciple of Jesus.” This accounts for the pious solicitude manifested by him to have the honour of sepulture paid our Redeemer, and to have Him rescued from the ignominy of having His sacred remains cast into the common receptacle of malefactors and criminals. St. John (Jn 19:38) tells us, “he was a disciple, but in private for fear of the Jews;” he was “a noble counsellor” (St. Mark 15:43); “a senator, a just and good man” (Luke 23:50, 51), “who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.” Being a “counsellor,” βουλευτης, or, decurio, which in the Provinces of Rome, designated a municipal honour equal to that of Senator at Rome. He belonged to the Sanhedrin, and, most likely, attended the Council that sat in judgment on our Blessed Lord, but he “did not consent to their counsel and doings” (Luke 23:51). To him may be applied, in a special manner, the words of the Psalmist, “beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum”—“he had been expecting the kingdom of God,” which means, that he firmly believed Jesus to be the Messiah, whose coming he had ardently longed for.

Mt 27:58. “He went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus.” St. Mark (Mk 15:43) observes, that he did this courageously, or “boldly,” to convey to us the spirit of fortitude with which God, on this occasion, endowed him who hitherto was only “in private a disciple of Jesus,” from feelings of fear. He begged our Redeemer’s body, for the purpose of honourable interment, and to have it removed from the bodies of the common herd of malefactors, thus fulfilling the words of Scripture, “erit sepulchrum ejus gloriosum.” St. Mark informs us, that Pilate wondered that He should be dead so soon (for sometimes persons crucified lived for some time, nay, for two days, on the cross); and that he sent for the centurion, to know if it were so, and having been assured of it by the centurion, who guarded Him, he gave the body to Joseph, or, as it is here, “he commanded the body to be delivered.” All this was brought about by God’s overruling providence, in order that there would be no room for questioning or cavilling about the truth of our Redeemer’s death, or the reality of His resurrection from the dead. Pilate wished, by this, to make some atonement for the crime of condemning to death an innocent person; and, most likely, Joseph pleaded his well-known innocence as a reason for obtaining His body, in order to secure for it the rights of decent sepulture. “To be delivered,” that is, given back. For, Pilate himself gave Him to His executioners, and now he demands Him back.

Mt 27:59-60. “Taking His body” (“down,” from the cross, Mark, Luke), “wrapt it up in a clean linen cloth,” which he bought for the purpose (Mark 15:46), which was, therefore, not only clean, but quite new.

“And laid it in his own new monument, which he had hewed out in a rock.” St. John adds, “wherein no man had been yet laid” (John 19:41). The piety of Joseph towards our Blessed Lord, is manifested—1st. By his having taken Him down from the cross; thus, regardless of the censure of his countrymen, who regarded the touch of such a body as a pollution. 2ndly. By his having wrapped it up in fine linen, which he bought for the purpose, and, aided by Nicodemus (John 19:39), perfuming it with spices, composed of “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound,” thus sparing no expense to bestow on Him the honours of a costly burial, bestowed on the rich and noble alone among the Jews. 3rdly. By placing Him, who had not whereon to lay His head during life, and no burial-place at death, in His own new sepulchre, hewn in a rock, in his garden, which was nigh at hand. All this, although intended by Joseph solely to honour his Lord, was, still, arranged by God’s providence, to ensure the faith in His resurrection. For, as no other was laid in the tomb, so, no other could be said to have risen; and, as it was hewed in a solid rock, it could not be said, the disciples took away the body, through any opening in the walls, or by undermining the foundation, or raising the roof of the monument. If such was the piety of these holy men towards the dead body of our Redeemer, how great should not be our respect, reverence, and devotion towards His living, immortal body, which we daily receive in the Blessed and Adorable Eucharist?

“And he rolled a great stone to the mouth of the monument, and went his way,” to prevent any violation of the place, or of His body, and to secure the linen and the spices. This was intended by Providence, to insure more firmly the faith of the Resurrection.

Mt 27:61. “The other Mary,” refers to Mary, the mother of James and Joseph (Mark 15:47). “Sitting over against the sepulchre.” That there were more than these two present, is clear from St. Luke (Lk 23:55); but these two are specified, because, they were more remarkable, and showed the most sedulous anxiety. These pious women could not be torn from the cross while our Redeemer hung upon it, and, without mingling with the men, who were engaged in depositing His sacred body in the tomb, they remained close enough to the sepulchre to see “how His body was laid” (Luke 23:55), in order, that, after the Sabbath was over, on which no work could be done, they might come back and embalm His body with spices and ointment, which they purchased for the purpose, immediately after He was committed to the tomb (Luke 23:56). From the next chapter, it will be seen that they came back for the purpose of executing their pious intention.

Mt 27:62. “The next day, which followed the day of preparation,” viz., the Sabbath-day. However, the Evangelist does not call it by that name, since, as regarded the Jews, it was anything but a Sabbath, or a day of religious rest. Here, the Chief Priests are silently taxed with inconsistence. Those who heretofore had so often calumniously charged our Lord with a violation of the Sabbath, while performing works of charity and benevolence, make no scruple whatever in going to a Pagan judge, and demanding an armed guard to place them at the tomb, or, in sealing up the tomb and closing it—all operations involving much labour, and not permitted, either by law or tradition. Friday is called “preparation,” or Parasceve, because, on that day, the Jews prepared all things appertaining to food, &c., required on the following day—the Sabbath—on which day, they were not allowed to dress food, kindle a fire, &c. (Exod. 16:23–29).

“The Chief Priests,” &c., maddened with rage against Jesus, are not content with persecuting Him even unto death; but, they must follow Him, beyond the grave, destroy His fame, and blot out His name for ever. How admirably these wicked men illustrate the description given of the impious (Isa. 57:20-21; Job 15:21). The very attempt at guarding against imposture in the case of our Redeemer, not only argues their disregard for the Sabbath, and convicts them of trying, deliberately and knowingly, to stifle the truth of His resurrection, while it deprives them of all pretext for saying, His body was stolen; but, it furnishes the strongest confirmation of the resurrection, “iniquity has lied to itself,” and the words of Scripture illustrated. “There is no wisdom … against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30); “He destroys the wisdom of the wise,” &c. In other cases, they might plead innocence; here, they sin inexcusably, against the known truth, and against the Holy Ghost.

Mt 27:63. “We have remembered, that this seducer said,” &c. Lest Pilate should wonder they did not ask for an armed guard before this, they affect forgetfulness of what they had before been aware of; now, affecting to remember it, they wish to adopt precautionary measures. Although our Redeemer referred to His resurrection, on some occasions, in addressing the Jews (Matt. 12:39; John 2:19), still, they did not clearly understand Him; since, He spoke clearly to His Apostles alone on this subject. Hence, it must be from Judas, who betrayed his Master’s secrets, as well as His person, they heard it, or from the general rumour regarding it, which prevailed among the people. Their chief object in this proceeding was to foil, as far as possible, the prediction of Christ, which they feared would be verified on this subject, and the prodigies which occurred at His death served to awaken their apprehensions still more.

“That seducer,” the opprobrious epithet they bestowed on the Author of life, and God of all truth.

“After three days I will rise again,” that is, three days commenced, or partially accomplished, or, within three days, or, after the third day shall have arrived.

Mt 27:64. The Chief Priests, therefore, ask Pilate to have “the sepulchre guarded until the third day,” that is, the close of the third day. Our Redeemer did not say at what hour He would arise. This explains what they understood by the words, “after three days.” For, if the words meant that He would not rise till after three days, there would be no meaning in placing a guard till the term of three days had passed, as His disciples would not think of removing Him till the term specified by Himself had expired. Moreover, the guard should be continued, not until the third day, but after the third day; since, it was only then, in the supposed interpretation, He was to arise.

“Lest His disciples come,” &c. This was sheer hypocrisy and pretence. Their object in asking for a guard was, that they would prevent His rising, and, if necessary, to apprehend, or kill Him. For, in reality, they had no fears of His frightened, scattered, timorous disciples, who, if themselves imposed upon, could have no motive in perpetuating the deception, but, rather, every motive in exposing it, and confessing their own error, nor any hopes of succeeding in such an attempt, considering their position among their countrymen. They lacked all the human means of successfully propagating the deception. They had neither eloquence, nor wealth, nor family influence, nor numbers. This the High Priests well knew. Their fear about the disciples was a mere frivolous pretence. Their real motive in asking for a guard, was to prevent our Redeemer’s prediction being verified.

“So”—in case they succeeded in persuading the people of the fact of His having risen in accordance with His own prediction on the subject—“the last error shall be worse than the first.” The first error, or imposture, was the teaching of Christ, and particularly His claiming to be the Son of God. This error would be included in that regarding His resurrection; and, moreover, would derive further confirmation from it. Since, His raising Himself from the dead by His own power, in accordance with His prediction, would surely prove His Divinity.

The truth of this would involve Jews and Romans in the odium of having put to death the Author of life, and might serve as an incentive to wars and rebellions; and hence, the “last error” would be worse, in itself, because, it not only contained the former error, but also the most demonstrative proof of it, worse and more pernicious in its consequences, both in regard to Jews and Romans, and in regard to the numbers it would infect, and the difficulty of eradicating it; “worse,” in its extent, as it would extend, not alone to Judea, but to the uttermost bounds of the earth. Thus, these wicked men became prophets of their own disgrace, and of the glory of our Blessed Lord.

Mt 27:65. “You have a guard,” a company of soldiers, already placed at your service, for the crucifixion of this man. You are hereby allowed to use it, for the purpose of watching the sepulchre. The Greek, εχετε, may be rendered in the indicative or imperative, but the Vulgate version—habetis—in the indicative, is the most common, and the best sustained rendering of it. Some expositors (Calmet, &c.), by “guard,” understand a company of soldiers, appointed to guard the temple. But there is no evidence that these could be used for any other purpose. Others understand it, of the band stationed in the Castle of Antonia, for the purpose of quelling any tumult in the city.

“Go, guard it as you know,” adopt whatever means you may think prudent and effectual. Pilate thus insinuates, he had no wish to mix himself up any longer in their local and religious concerns.

Mt 27:66. “And they departing,” going to the sepulchre, and bringing with them the appointed guard of soldiers, “made sure the sepulchre with guards,” by placing the necessary guard of soldiers around it. They probably communicated to these soldiers their real or pretended fears, regarding the resurrection of our Blessed Lord. Most likely, they threatened them with the consequences, on the part of the Governor, in case of unfaithfulness; and promised great rewards, in case they proved faithful, until after the allotted time had passed. They, probably, had also instructed them, in case our Redeemer were really to arise, to put Him to death, as they may have formed the same notions of His renewed and immortal life, that they entertained regarding Lazarus, whom they thought to kill, after he was resuscitated from the grave (John 12:10).

“Sealing the stone” (σφραγισαντες) with the public seal—“the stone” referred to (v. 60). They thus secured the sepulchre, in two ways, with the public seal, and with a guard of soldiers. Whether this was Pilate’s seal, or that of the High Priests, is disputed. The latter is the more common opinion. St. Chrysostom, however, holds the former. They took these extraordinary precautions against the guard, in case they should be tampered with, and against the disciples also. Darius acted similarly, in regard to Daniel (Dan. 6:17). All these extraordinary precautions, to guard against imposition, only served to render the truth of our Lord’s glorious resurrection more certain and indisputable. Thus, the Almighty turned the devices of His enemies against themselves, “destroying the wisdom of the wise, and rejecting the prudence of the prudent,” and He thus demonstrated that, “there is no wisdom, no prudence, no counsel, against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 3:10-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 15, 2018

Lk 3:10. “And the people asked him.” The Scribes and Pharisees, whom John had reproached so sharply, “had despised the counsel of God” (Lk 7:30), and therefore, paid no heed to John’s preaching; but, “the people,” who were well affected, touched by his preaching, “asked him, what shall we do?” what works of penance shall we perform? what fruits, worthy of penance, shall we produce, in order to evade the threatened ruin, and be worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven, which you announce as near?

Lk 3:11. “He that hath two coats,” &c. The Baptist specially enjoins works of mercy, and alms-deeds, among the most deserving fruits of penance. Not that they are alone to be performed; but, because they commend themselves most to us. They wonderfully commend us to God, and incline Him to show mercy to us in turn, “peccata tua eleemosynis redime,” &c. He refrains from inculcating severe penitential works, in the first instance, for fear of scaring the multitude away from the way of perfection. He inculcates the exercise of mercy, which will obtain of God abundant grace, to perform these painful works of penance with alacrity, “Quod superest, da Eleemosynam, et ecce, omnia munda sunt vobis” (Luke 11:41). “That hath two coats,” and one of them superfluous, let him give the superfluous one to him who wants it, “that hath none.” The same is inculcated on the man, who hath meat to spare, let him give it to his neighbour, who wants it. Under these two works, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry—the two things most necessary, before everything else, for sustaining human life—are included all the other works of mercy, corporal and spiritual. The words of this verse clearly demonstrate the necessity of exercising the corporal works of mercy, in relieving our indigent brethren; and the Baptist inculcates it on the multitude without distinction, as a precept binding on all classes of persons.

Lk 3:12. “And the publicans also came to be baptized.” Who the publicans were (see Matthew 9:11). The Greek, τελωνης, is not accurately rendered by the Vulgate, publicanus, the publicans being men of rank among the Romans, who farmed the revenue. Here, the word means a tax-gatherer, employed by the Publicani. Among the Jews, the collector of taxes, especially if he were a Jew, was regarded as an extortioner and apostate, and classed with the worst description of sinners, peccatores ex officio (Tertullian de Pudicitia, c. ix) Their occupation was not, of itself, illicit. For, if it was licit for rulers to impose, it must also be for others, to collect taxes. Hence, the Baptist here does not tell them to give up this calling in life, which he would do, in the first instance, if it were unlawful. But, owing to their excessive and unjust exactions, their grinding oppression of the poor, the publicans, as a class, were regarded in the light of public sinners; and they are regarded by our Redeemer frequently in the Gospels, as outside the pale of salvation. Here, touched with the preaching of the Baptist, they come to be baptized; thus verifying the words of our Lord, “the publicans and the harlots will go before you into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 21:31).

Lk 3:13. They asked John what they were to do, in order to avoid the wrath to come. He only tells them, “Do nothing more than that which is appointed for you.” The Greek word for “do”—πρασσεὶν—means also, to exact, the meaning it has here. He tells them, in collecting taxes, to exact no more than is assessed on the people, in each case, by the legally constituted authorities. In this, it is not implied, that cessation from unjust exactions was sufficient for them, or fully constituted the fruits of penance he required them to bring forth. He only imposes this on them, in the first instance, to avoid the sin to which they were particularly liable, and which was ordinarily committed by them, from a belief that their fidelity in this respect, would merit for them grace to do the other things required of them in common with all; to practise works of mercy among the rest. The first thing to be enjoined on all is, the mastery over their predominant passion, and the performance of the peculiar duties of their state. This, however, though necessary for all, is not sufficient; they must, in addition, fully observe the precepts of avoiding evil, and of doing good. From the words of the Baptist, it is clear, the office of Publican was not bad, save in its abuse. He does not enjoin on them to exact nothing, but only to exact nothing beyond their due.

Lk 3:14. “The soldiers,” as a class, though there are many saints among them, are most indifferent, not very susceptible of religious impressions, and greatly exposed to sin. These also are cautioned or warned by John against three vices to which they are subject, viz.:—1st, violence, or, the violent use of the arms which, put into their hands against the enemy, are sometimes employed by them in oppressing their fellow-subjects, for the purpose of unjust exactions; 2ndly, calumny, in falsely accusing their innocent neighbours of crimes against the State, and giving false information against them, in order to partake of their confiscated property; 3rdly, pillage, to support the extravagance and dissipated habits for which their ordinary pay was unequal. The Baptist here taxes the vices peculiar to the military state; inculcates their avoidance, with the firm hope, that if military men overcame themselves in this respect, they would ultimately practise the virtues, which are obligatory on all men, and avoid the vices condemned in all, by the law and commandments of God. From the words of John here it is legitimately inferred, that warfare is a lawful profession to engage in. The Baptist only tells them to avoid the vices incident to that calling. The same is fairly inferred from our Lord’s treatment of the Centurion (Matthew 8:10), and from Peter’s conduct towards Cornelius (Acts 10:36), neither of whom tells those whose faith they praise to abandon the profession of arms.

The Greek word for “calumniate,” συκοφαντησητε—from συκον, a fig, and φαινῶ, to declare, strictly denoting, to inform against the exporters of figs, is allusive to the law prohibiting the exportation of figs in Attica during seasons of scarcity. When there was a plentiful harvest, the law was useless. Still, as it was binding at all times, in consequence of not having been repealed, ill-natured and malicious people took occasion from it to accuse all persons transgressing the letter of the law. Hence, all busy informers, have ever since, been branded with the odious name of sycophants. With an accusative of the person, as here, it signifies, to oppress any one, to annoy him by frivolous accusations, especially under pretence of law. With a genitive of the person and an accusative of the thing (Luke 19:8), it signifies, to take away any thing from a man on the same pretences (Parkhust, Greek Lexicon; Potter, Antiquities, Book i. c. 21).

Lk 3:15. “And as the people were of opinion,” &c. The end of the Baptist’s mission was twofold—to preach penance, in order to dispose the people for receiving the Gospel; and to preach faith in Christ, and render Him testimony. He had already performed the first part, and now he enters on the second object of his mission. The Greek for “opinion,” προσδοκῶντες, means, desiring, hoping. On considering John’s wonderful birth, life, preaching and baptism, which was to be instituted in a new form by the Messiah (Ezechiel 36:25); being also aware that the period of our Lord’s coming was near—the sceptre having passed from Juda, and the seventy weeks of Daniel having been accomplished—the people began to hope, that John might have been the desired Messiah. They were revolving these thoughts in their hearts, when John, either informed by his disciples, of the opinion currently circulated regarding him, or being inspired by the Holy Ghost; or, if we make the testimony rendered by him here to be the same as that given (John 1:20) and rendered on the same occasion, being interrogated on the subject, at once rejecting the high prerogative falsely ascribed to him, proclaims the Divinity and infinite superiority of our Lord over himself. This public declaration of John given “to all,” was providentially deferred until John himself having been reputed to be the Messiah, his testimony regarding our Lord would carry with it greater weight, and would seem still more to proclaim the glory and Divinity of the Son of God. It is disputed whether St. Luke here refers to the occasion described (John 1:20). If both occasions be identical, then, St. Luke and the other synoptists must have described it by anticipation, since, they describe it as occurring before our Lord’s baptism; John thus supplying, as was his wont, what they omit; namely, the circumstances of the deputation from Jerusalem, to whom our Lord rendered this testimony. If both occasions be different—and the words of the Baptist, addressed to the deputation (John 1:26), “there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.” … “The same is He that shall come after me,” &c. (John 1:27) would favour this opinion; for, he spoke of our Lord as Him of whom he before had said, “that He was to come after him”)—then, John learned their feelings from inspiration or from his Disciples.

Lk 3:16-17. (See commentary on Matthew 3:11-12.) Here is what Fr. MacEvilly wrote in his commentary on Matthew:

(Mt 3:11). “I indeed baptize you,” &c. These words need not necessarily be connected with those of the preceding verse, as if spoken at the same time, or immediately after them, by the Baptist. From St. Luke (3:15) it would seem that they were spoken by him to refute a false notion, which he knew existed in the minds of the people regarding himself, as if he were their long expected Messiah. It may be, he knew their feelings from the faculty divinely granted him of penetrating the secret thoughts of their hearts; or, he may have learned their opinions from the discourses of the people, or from some of his own disciples who associated and moved among the people; or, it may be, if we consider these words spoken on the occasion recorded (John 1:19), that he learned it from those who were deputed to make inquiries of himself personally on this debated subject. Some commentators, however, think the occasion referred to (John 1:19–27) different from this, inasmuch as the occurrence, referred to in John, took place after Christ’s baptism by John, and the occurrence here recorded, before it. Moreover, he says (John 1:26), he speaks of our Redeemer as “standing in the midst of them,” of whom he before said, that, “He was to come after him;” here, and, St. Luke 3, he insinuates the contrary. If the three other Evangelists refer to the same occasion, referred to by St. John (Jn 1:19–27), it must be said, that they narrated by anticipation, as if occurring before Christ’s baptism by John, what only occurred after it. The people seeing the extraordinary sanctity of John, and the repute in which he was held, looked upon him as the Messiah, who was expected about this time by the Jews; because, the term marked out for His coming, in their ancient prophecies, had now expired. The rite of baptism which John administered, confirmed them in this impression, as the giving of baptism was considered a peculiar mark that was to distinguish the Messiah (John 1:25; Ezechiel 36, “effundam super vos aquam mundam,” &c.) This was divinely disposed, in order to show forth the humility of the Baptist, and add greater weight to his testimony regarding our Lord, while raising Him infinitely above himself, whom the people held in such high veneration for his extraordinary sanctity and austerity of life. The Baptist, in bearing testimony to our Lord, compares, 1st, his person; and, 2ndly, his baptism, with the Divine Person and the baptism of our Lord, and exalts the latter, in an infinite degree, as was meet, beyond the former.

First, as to His Person, he says, that our Lord, “who is to come after him,” his junior in point of birth in the flesh, and in regard to the time of his public preaching and manifestation to the world, to come after him, was “mightier” than he, as possessing within Himself infinite efficacy and power, which He displayed in all His actions, reaching not only the bodies, but the souls of men. The words, “mightier than I,” are probably allusive to the description of the qualities of our Lord as given by Isaias (Isa 9:7), who calls Him “the Mighty God.” His supereminent dignity is such that John is unworthy to be His servant, or to perform the most menial office for Him. One of the most menial offices assigned to servants or slaves of the lowest description among the ancients, Romans, Greeks, Jews, &c., was to carry, to bind and loose their master’s shoes. According to the other Evangelists it said, he is not worthy to stoop down and untie “the latchet of His shoes.” The meaning is the same as that conveyed by St. Matthew here, viz., that he is unworthy to perform the most menial office in His regard. Or, it may be that the Baptist used both forms of expression, viz., that he was unworthy to carry His shoes, or even to stoop down and untie them.

Secondly, as to his baptism, exalting Christ’s baptism above his own, he says his baptism merely reached the bodies of men. Its effect was merely to wash or baptize them with water, “unto penance,” as a sign of the spiritual cleansing which they needed, as a protestation of their need of penance for their past sins, but, of itself, it did not reach the soul, so as to impart grace or remit sin; whereas, the baptism of Christ, who was infinitely “mightier” and more powerful to impart efficacy to any rite He would institute, was not confined in its effects to the body; it reached the entire nature of mankind, it poured into their souls “the Holy Ghost,” who with the active properties of “fire,” cleansed and purified their whole interior, and lit up in them the burning flames of Divine love.

“He shall baptize,” &c. If the word, “baptize,” be taken in its plain, literal signification, then, it includes the rite of baptism, instituted by our Lord in water, as is indicated (John 3:5; Matt. 21:25), and the passage means: He shall institute a baptism, the effects of which shall not merely reach the body, and typify interior cleansing (like the baptism of John); but it shall confer the Holy Ghost, who will produce effects of cleansing, purifying, enlightening and warming, symbolized by the natural effects and active agency of “fire.” “And fire.” The word “and” signifies, that is, fire.

If the word, “baptize,” be taken figuratively to signify the effects of baptism in both cases; then, the words mean: the effect of my baptism is merely to wash the body externally, as a sign of the desired cleansing of the soul. But the effect of His baptism shall be, to pour the manifold gifts and energy of the Holy Ghost into the souls of men. It seems quite clear, that it is in this latter sense the words are to be understood; since, it is not the matter of his own baptism and that of Christ which John is here contrasting, but the effect of both, the latter being far more exalted, and as far superior to the former, as the cleansing of the soul is above that of the body: and the cleansing power and efficacy of fire, is above that of water. This latter sense is allusive to the signification given the word by our Redeemer Himself (Acts 1:5), where He speaks of the baptism of the Spirit; or, of receiving the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and the word, “baptism,” is taken figuratively elsewhere, to denote the gifts of sanctifying grace received through suffering, “habeo Baptismum … et quomodo coarctor,” &c. Hence, theologians distinguish the threefold baptism of water, blood, and the Spirit, the effect being substantially the same in all. The figurative understanding of the word, “baptize,” here does not, by any means, warrant the Methodists and Quakers in regarding baptism as a spiritual effect, and not as an external material rite; because, elsewhere (Matt. 27; John 3), the words must be taken literally, to mean an external rite. For, according to a received canon for interpreting SS. Scripture, the words should be understood literally, unless there be some reason or necessity for taking them figuratively. Now, in the passage referred to, there is nothing either in the context, or the laws of Hermeneutics, to warrant us in departing from the plain and obvious meaning of the words; whereas, in this present verse (11), we are forced by the very nature of the language employed, to understand the words figuratively; since, no one can, in the literal sense, be “baptized in the Holy Ghost and in fire.” The figurative use of a word in some passages of SS. Scripture would by no means force us to use it figuratively in every other passage, particularly when the context would imply the contrary. Now, the baptism of John was clearly an external rite performed with water; so was that also given by St. Peter to Cornelius, the Centurion. “Can any one forbid water, that these should not be baptized?” (Acts 10:44–48.) With water also did Philip baptize the Eunuch (Acts 8:38). The words, then, refer to the abundant effusion of the gifts of the Holy Ghost by our Lord on His faithful followers, through the rite of baptism, instituted by Him in water.

“Fire” is variously interpreted. But it is, most likely, meant to convey an idea of, and symbolize, the active properties and working of the Holy Ghost in the soul. The leading properties of fire are: to consume, enlighten, inflame, transforms all into itself. So it is with the Holy Ghost. Once He takes possession of the souls of men, like “fire,” He cleanses from their sins the truly penitent, who believe in Him. He enlightens, inflames, and transforms them into Himself.

(Mt 3:12). “Whose fan is in His hand.” In these words, the Baptist, after describing the great mercy and goodness of our Lord, in the plentiful redemption He bestows on the just and repentant, refers to Him, in His judicial character, and points out the rigorous judgment He shall execute on the unrepenting sinners, and on those who shall fall away from justice. This He does with the view of terrifying the unrepenting Jews, and also of removing any false feelings of undue confidence they might conceive, as if having once received the Holy Ghost, they need not be over cautious in regard to the future. The words convey a figurative allusion to the mode, employed by the Jews, of separating the chaff and other filth from the good grain, by means of a “fan” or winnowing shovel. By the “fan” is meant, the judgment which our Lord, “to whom His Father has given all judgment” (John 5:22), shall exercise at the last day, on all mankind. This judgment, although distant, is still virtually present and quite near. (“His fan is in His hand,” ready for execution.) This is intelligible, if we consider that the longest period of time, in the measure of God, and compared with eternity, is but a mere point; and, moreover, this judgment virtually takes place at death, which is quite near to each one.

“Thoroughly cleanse His floor,” that is, the grain on His floor. This may refer to His Church, in which are to be found good and bad; or, to the entire universe, which is “His.”

“The wheat.” The good, who persevere in the performance of good works.

“The barn.” Heaven.

“The chaff.” The wicked, the worthless, who have not done good, and have been workers of iniquity.

“Unquenchable fire,” that is, hell fire, which shall never be extinguished, as it needs no fuel, save the undying breath of an angry God. It means also, that the fire never destroys, or utterly consumes, but burns and tortures for ever, such as fall into it. The Greek (ασβεσῶ) means, unextinguished, unquenched, eternal, ever-enduring. The words contain an allusion to the passage of Isaias (Isa 66:24), “Vermis corum non moritur,” &c. “Quis de robis habitabit cum igne devorante … ardoribus sempiternis?” These words refute the heresy of Origen regarding the finite duration of the pains of hell, or their cessation after a certain period. Modern Origens on this subject are cropping up of late in this country.

Lk 3:18. By these and other similar discourses full of grace and holy unction, the Precursor announced beforehand the glad tidings of redemption by Christ which was soon to be accomplished; and by exhorting the people to penance, and announcing the Gospel truths beforehand, he disposed them for faith in the coming Redeemer, of whom he was the Precursor.

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The Humble Obedience of Christ as an Example for Christians (Various Sources)

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 10, 2018

Pope St Clement of Rome~For Christ is of those who are humble-minded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him. For He says, “Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We have declared [our message] in His presence: He is, as it were, a child, and like a root in thirsty ground; He has no form nor glory, yea, we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness; but His form was without eminence, yea, deficient in comparison with the [ordinary] form of men. He is a man exposed to stripes and suffering, and acquainted with the endurance of grief: for His countenance was turned away; He was despised, and not esteemed. He bears our iniquities, and is in sorrow for our sakes; yet we supposed that [on His own account] He was exposed to labour, and stripes, and affliction. But He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we were healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; [every] man has wandered in his own way; and the Lord has delivered Him up for our sins, while He in the midst of His sufferings openeth not His mouth. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before her shearer is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away; who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth. For the transgressions of my people was He brought down to death. And I will give the wicked for His sepulchre, and the rich for His death,1 because He did no iniquity, neither was guile found in His mouth. And the Lord is pleased to purify him by stripes.2 If ye make3 an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed. And the Lord is pleased to relieve Him of the affliction of His soul, to show Him light, and to form Him with understanding,4 to justify the Just One who ministereth well to many; and He Himself shall carry their sins. On this account He shall inherit many, and shall divide the spoil of the strong; because His soul was delivered to death, and He was reckoned among the transgressors, and He bare the sins of many, and for their sins was He delivered.”5 And again He saith, “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All that see me have derided me; they have spoken with their lips; they have wagged their head, [saying] He hoped in God, let Him deliver Him, let Him save Him, since He delighteth in Him.”6 Ye see, beloved, what is the example which has been given us; for if the Lord thus humbled Himself, what shall we do who have through Him come under the yoke of His grace?

Catechism of the Council of Trent~The mystery of the Incarnation is often to be inculcated upon the people. What advantage is to be derived from the meditation thereon

But he should labour to impress these mysteries, which were written for our learning,t deeply on the minds and hearts of the faithful, in order that, in the first place, by the commemoration of so great a benefit, they may make some return of gratitude to God, its author; and next, in order to place before their eyes, as a model for imitation, this surpassing and singular example of humility. For what can be more useful, what better adapted to subdue the pride and haughtiness of the human heart, than frequently to reflect that God humbles himself in such a manner as to communicate to men his glory, and assume the frailty and weakness of man; that God becomes man, and that he, at whose nod, as the Scripture saith, the pillars of heaven tremble and dread;u that supreme and infinite majesty ministers unto man; that he whom the angels adore in heaven is born on earth! When God, then, doeth such things towards us, what, I ask, what should we not do, to testify our obedience to his will? With how prompt and eager a mind should we not love, embrace, and perform all the duties of Christian humility? The faithful should also know in how salutary lessons Christ doth instruct us at his birth, before he begins to utter any speech. He is born in poverty: he is born as a stranger in an inn: he is born in a lowly manger: he is born in the depth of winter. For so are these things recorded by St. Luke: And it came to pass, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered, and she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, became there was no room for them in the inn.v Could the evangelist have comprehended under more humble terms the whole majesty and glory of heaven and earth? He does not say, there was no room in the inn; but there was no room for him who says: The world is mine, and the fulness thereof;w and this another evangelist records in these words: He came unto his own, and his own received him not.x
When the faithful shall have set these things before their eyes, let them also reflect, that God vouchsafed to assume the lowliness and frailty of our flesh, in order that the human race might be exalted to the highest degree of dignity. For this single reflection, that he who is true and perfect God became man, alone is sufficient proof of the exalted dignity conferred on man by the divine bounty; so that we may now glory that the Son of God is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, a privilege not granted to angels, for no where, says the apostle, doth he take on him the angels; but of the seed of Abraham he taketh.y
We must, moreover, take care lest, to our greatest prejudice, it come to pass that [these blessings] rise in judgment against us;z that, as at Bethlehem, the place of his nativity, there was for him no place in the inn, so also, now that he is no longer born in the flesh, he be not unable to find a dwelling in our hearts, in which he may be spiritually born; for he, being most desirous for our salvation, makes this an object of his most earnest wishes. As then, by the power of the Holy Ghost, and in a manner transcending the order of nature, he was made man and was born, and was holy and even holiness itself; so does it become our duty to be born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God;a to walk as a new creatureb in newness of spirit;c and to keep that holiness and purity of soul that so much becometh men regenerated by the Spirit of God. For thus shall we reflect some faint image of this holy conception and nativity of the Son of God, which we believe in firm faith, and believing which, we admire and adore the wisdom of God in a mystery, which is hidden.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 520~In all of his life Jesus presents himself as our model. He is “the perfect man,” (GS 38; cf. Rom 15:5; Phil 2:5.) who invites us to become his disciples and follow him. In humbling himself, he has given us an example to imitate, through his prayer he draws us to pray, and by his poverty he calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way ( Jn 13:15; Lk 11:1; Mt 5:11–12.). (459, 359; 2607)

Catechism of the Catholic Church 537~Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father’s beloved son in the Son and “walk in newness of life”: (Rom 6:4) (1262; 628)

Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him. (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio. 40, 9)

Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father’s voice, we become sons of God. (St. Hilary of Poitiers, In Matth. 2, 5:)

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentaries on Hebrews 1:3-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 9, 2018

This post St John Chrysostom’s second and third homilies on Hebrews. The first on Heb 1:3-5; the second is on Heb 1:6-8.

HOMILY II

Hebrews 1:3.

“Who being the brightness of His Glory and the express Image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins.”

[1.] Everywhere indeed a reverential mind is requisite, but especially when we say or hear anything of God: Since neither can tongue speak nor thought1 hear anything suitable to our God. And why speak I of tongue or thought?2 For not even the understanding3 which far excels these, will be able to comprehend anything accurately, when we desire to utter aught concerning God. For if “the peace of God surpasseth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), and “the things which are prepared for them that love Him have not entered into the heart of man” (1 Cor. 2:9); much more He Himself, the God of peace, the Creator of all things, doth by a wide measure exceed our reasoning. We ought therefore to receive all things with faith and reverence, and when our discourse4 fails through weakness, and is not able to set forth accurately the things which are spoken, then especially to glorify God, for that we have such a God, surpassing both our thought and our conception.5 For many of our conceptions6 about God, we are unable to express, as also many things we express, but have not strength to conceive of them. As for instance:—That God is everywhere, we know; but how, we no longer understand.7 That there is a certain incorporeal power the cause of all our good things, we know: but how it is, or what it is, we know not. Lo! we speak, and do not understand. I said, That He is everywhere, but I do not understand it. I said, That He is without beginning, but I do not understand it. I said, That He begat from Himself, and again I know not how I shall understand it. And some things there are which we may not even speak—as for instance, thought conceives8 but cannot utter.

And to show thee that even Paul is weak and doth not put out his illustrations with exactness; and to make thee tremble and refrain from searching too far, hear what he says, having called Him Son and named Him Creator, “Who being the brightness of His Glory, and the express image of His person.”

This we must receive with reverence and clear of all incongruities. “The brightness of His glory,” saith he. But observe in what reference he understands this, and so do thou receive it:—that He is of Him:9 without passion: that He is neither greater, nor less; since there are some, who derive certain strange things from the illustration. For, say they, “the brightness” is not substantial,10 but hath its being in another. Now do not thou, O man, so receive it, neither be thou sick of the disease of Marcellus11 and Photinus.12 For he hath a remedy for thee close at hand, that thou fall not into that imagination, nor doth he leave thee to be hurried down into that fatal malady. And what saith he? “And the express image of His person” [or “subsistence”13 ]: that is, just as He [the Father] is personally subsisting, being in need of nothing,14 so also the Son. For he saith this here, showing the undeviating similitude15 and the peculiar image of the Prototype, that He [the Son] is in subsistence by Himself.

For he who said above, that “by Him He made all things” here assigns to Him absolute authority. For what doth he add? “And upholding all things by the word of His power”; that we might hence infer not merely His being the express image of His Person, but also His governing all things with absolute authority.

See then, how he applies to the Son that which is proper to the Father. For on this account he did not say simply, “and upholding all things,” nor did he say, “by His power,” but, “by the word of His power.” For much as just now we saw him gradually ascend and descend; so also now, as by steps, he goes up on high, then again descends, and saith, “by whom also He made the worlds.”

Behold how here also he goes on two paths, by the one leading us away from Sabellius, by the other from Arius, yea and on another, that He [Christ] should not be accounted un-originated, 1 which he does also throughout, nor yet alien from God. For if, even after so much, there are some who assert that He is alien, and assign to Him another father, and say that He is at variance with Him;—had [Paul] not declared these things, what would they not have uttered?

How then does he this? When he is compelled to heal, then is he compelled also to utter lowly things: as for instance, “He appointed Him” (saith he) “heir of all things,” and “by Him He made the worlds.” (Supra, ver. 2.) But that He might not be in another way dishonored, he brings Him up again to absolute authority and declares Him to be of equal honor with the Father, yea, so equal, that many thought Him to be the Father.

And observe thou his great wisdom. First he lays down the former point and makes it sure accurately. And when this is shown, that He is the Son of God, and not alien from Him, he thereafter speaks out safely all the high sayings, as many as he will. Since any high speech concerning Him, led many into the notion just mentioned, he first sets down what is humiliating and then safely mounts up as high as he pleases. And having said, “whom He appointed heir of all things,” and that “by Him He made the worlds,” he then adds, “and upholding all things by the word of His power.” For He that by a word only governs all things, could not be in need of any one, for the producing all things.

[2.] And to prove this, mark how again going forward, and laying aside the “by whom,” he assigns to Him absolute power. For after he had effected what he wished by the use of it, thenceforward leaving it, what saith he? “Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands.” (Infra, ver. 10.) Nowhere is there the saying “by whom,” or that “by Him He made the worlds.” What then? Were they not made by Him? Yes, but not, as thou sayest or imaginest, “as by an instrument”: nor as though He would not have made them unless the Father had reached out a hand to Him. For as He “judgeth no man” (John 5:22), and is said to judge by the Son, in that He begat Him a judge; so also, to create by Him, in that He begat Him a Creator. And if the Father be the original cause of Him, in that He is Father, much more of the things which have been made by Him. When therefore he would show that He is of Him, he speaks of necessity lowly things. But when he would utter high things, Marcellus takes a handle, and Sabellius; avoiding however the excess of both, he holds a middle [way]. For neither does he dwell on the humiliation, lest Paul of Samosata should obtain a standing place, nor yet does he for ever abide in the high sayings; but shows on the contrary His abundant nearness, lest Sabellius rush in upon him. He names Him “Son,” and immediately Paul of Samosata comes on him, saying that He is a son, as the many are. But he gives him a fatal wound, calling Him “Heir.” But yet, with Arius, he is shameless. For the saying, “He appointed Him heir,” they both hold: the former one saying, it comes of weakness; the other still presses objections, endeavoring to support himself by the clause which follows. For by saying, “by whom also He made the worlds,” he strikes backwards the impudent Samosatene: while Arius still seems to be strong. Nevertheless see how he smites him likewise, saying again, “who being the brightness of His glory.” But behold! Sabellius again springs on us, with Marcellus, and Photinus: but on all these also he inflicts one blow, saying, “and the express image of His person and upholding all things by the word of His power.” Here again he wounds Marcion too;2 not very severely, but however he doth wound him. For through the whole of this Epistle he is fighting against them.

But the very thing which he said, “the brightness of the glory,” hear also Christ Himself saying, “I am the Light of the world.” (John 8:12.) Therefore he [the Apostle] uses the word “brightness,” showing that this was said in the sense of “Light of Light.” Nor is it this alone which he shows, but also that He hath enlightened our souls; and He hath Himself manifested the Father, and by “the brightness” he has indicated the nearness of the Being [of the Father and the Son3 ]. Observe the subtlety of his expressions. He hath taken one essence and subsistence to indicate two subsistences. Which he also doth in regard to the knowledge of the Spirit4; for as he saith that the knowledge of the Father is one with that of the Spirit, as being indeed one, and in nought varying from itself (1 Cor. 2:10–12): so also here he hath taken hold of one certain [thing] whereby to express the subsistence of the Two.5

And he adds that He is “the express Image.” For the “express Image” is something other1 than its Prototype: yet not Another in all respects, but as to having real subsistence. Since here also the term, “express image,” indicates there is no variation from that whereof it is the “express image”: its similarity in all respects. When therefore he calls Him both Form,2 and express Image, what can they say? “Yea,” saith he, “man is also called an Image of God.”3 What then! is he so [an image of Him] as the Son is? No (saith he) but because the term, image, doth not show resemblance. And yet, in that man is called an Image, it showeth resemblance, as in man. For what God is in Heaven, that man is on earth, I mean as to dominion. And as he hath power over all things on earth, so also hath God power over all things which are in heaven and which are on earth. But otherwise, man is not called “Express image,” he is not called Form: which phrase declares the substance, or rather both substance and similarity in substance. Therefore just as “the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:6, 7) expresses no other thing than a man without variation4 [from human nature], so also “the form of God” expresses no other thing than God.

“Who being” (saith he) “the brightness of His glory.” See what Paul is doing. Having said, “Who being the brightness of His glory,” he added again, “He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty”: what names he hath used, nowhere finding a name for the Substance. For neither “the Majesty,” nor “the Glory” setteth forth the Name, which he wishes to say, but is not able to find a name. For this is what I said at the beginning, that oftentimes we think something, and are not able to express [it]: since not even the word God is a name of substance, nor is it at all possible to find a name of that Substance.

And what marvel, if it be so in respect of God, since not even in respect of an Angel, could one find a name expressive of his substance? Perhaps too, neither in respect of the soul. For this name [soul] doth not seem to me to be significative of the substance thereof, but of breathing. For one may see that the same [thing] is called both Soul and Heart and Mind: for, saith he, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10), and one may often see that it [the soul] is called spirit.

“And upholding all things by the word of His power.” Tell me, “God said” (it is written), “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3): “the Father, saith one,5 commanded, and the Son obeyed”? But behold here He also [the Son] acts by word. For (saith he), “And upholding all things”—that is, governing; He holds together what would fall to pieces; For, to hold the world together, is no less than to make it, but even greater (if one must say a strange thing). For the one is to bring forward something out of things which are not: but the other, when things which have been made are about to fall back into non-existence, to hold and fasten them together, utterly at variance as they are with each other: this is indeed great and wonderful, and a certain proof of exceeding power.

Then showing the easiness, he said, “upholding”: (he did not say, governing,6 from the figure of those who simply with their finger move anything, and cause it to go round.) Here he shows both the mass of the creation to be great, and that this greatness is nothing to Him. Then again he shows the freedom from the labor, saying, “By the word of His power.” Well said he, “By the word.” For since, with us, a word is accounted to be a bare thing, he shows that it is not bare with God. But, how “He upholdeth by the word,” he hath not further added: for neither is it possible to know. Then he added concerning His majesty: for thus John also did: having said that “He is God” (John 1:1), he brought in the handiwork of the Creation. For the same thing which the one indirectly expressed, saying, “In the beginning was the Word,” and “All things were made by Him” (John 1:3), this did the other also openly declare by “the Word,” and by saying “by whom also He made the worlds.” For thus he shows Him to be both a Creator, and before all ages. What then? when the prophet saith, concerning the Father, “Thou art from everlasting and to everlasting” (Ps. 90:2), and concerning the Son, that He is before all ages, and the maker of all things—what can they say? Nay rather, when the very thing which was spoken of the Father,—“He which was before the worlds,”—this one may see spoken of the Son also? And that which one saith, “He was life” (John 1:4), pointing out the preservation of the creation, that Himself is the Life of all things,—so also saith this other, “and upholding all things by the word of His power”: not as the Greeks who defraud Him, as much as in them lies, both of Creation itself, and of Providence, shutting up His power, to reach only as far as to the Moon.

“By Himself” (saith he) “having purged our sins.” Having spoken concerning those marvelous and great matters, which are most above us, he proceeds to speak also afterwards concerning His care for men. For indeed the former expression, “and upholding all things,” also was universal: nevertheless this is far greater, for it also is universal: for, for His part, “all” men believed.1 As John also, having said, “He was life,” and so pointed out His providence, saith again, and “He was light.”

“By Himself,” saith he, “having purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He here setteth down two very great proofs of His care: first the “purifying us from our sins,” then the doing it “by Himself.” And in many places, thou seest him making very much of this,—not only of our reconciliation with God, but also of this being accomplished through the Son. For the gift being truly great, was made even greater by the fact that it was through the Son.

For2 in saying, “He sat on the right hand,” and, “having by Himself purged our sins,”—though he had put us in mind of the Cross, he quickly added the mention of the resurrection and ascension. And see his unspeakable wisdom: he said not, “He was commanded to sit down,” but “He sat down.” Then again, lest thou shouldest think that He standeth, he subjoins, “For to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on My right hand.”

“He sat” (saith he) “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” What is this “on high”? Doth he enclose God in place? Away with such a thought! but just as, when he saith, “on the right hand,” he did not describe Him as having figure, but showed His equal dignity with the Father; so, in saying “on high,” he did not enclose Him there, but expressed the being higher than all things, and having ascended up above all things. That is, He attained even unto the very throne of the Father: as therefore the Father is on high, so also is He. For the “sitting together” implies nothing else than equal dignity. But if they say, that He said, “Sit Thou,” we may ask them, What then? did He speak to Him standing? Moreover, he said not that He commanded, not that He enjoined, but that “He said”: for no other reason, than that thou mightest not think Him without origin and without cause. For that this is why he said it, is evident from the place of His sitting. For had he intended to signify inferiority, he would not have said, “on the right hand,” but on the left hand.

Ver. 4. “Being made,” saith he, “so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” The “being made,” here, is instead of “being shown forth,” as one may say. Then also from what does he reason confidently? From the Name. Seest thou that the name Son is wont to declare true relationship? And indeed if He were not a true Son (and “true” is nothing else than “of Him”), how does he reason confidently from this? For if He be Son only by grace, He not only is not “more excellent than the angels,” but is even less than they. How? Because righteous men too were called sons; and the name son, if it be not a genuine son, doth not avail to show the “excellency.” When too he would point out that there is a certain difference between creatures and their maker, hear what he saith:

Ver. 5. “For to which of the Angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? For these things indeed are spoken with reference also to the flesh: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”—while this,3 “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” expresses nothing else than “from [the time] that God is.” For as He is said to be,4 from the time present (for this befits Him more than any other), so also the [word] “To-day” seems to me to be spoken here with reference to the flesh. For when He hath taken hold of it, thenceforth he speaks out all boldly. For indeed the flesh partakes of the high things, just as the Godhead of the lowly. For He who disdained not to become man, and did not decline the reality, how should He have declined the expressions?

Seeing then that we know these things, let us be ashamed of nothing, nor have any high thoughts. For if He Himself being God and Lord and Son of God, did not decline to take the form of a slave, much more ought we to do all things, though they be lowly. For tell me, O man, whence hast thou high thoughts? from things of this life? but these or ever they appear, run by. Or, from things spiritual? nay, this is itself one spiritual excellency,—to have no high thoughts.

Wherefore then dost thou cherish high thoughts? because thou goest on aright? hear Christ saying, “When ye have done all things, say, we are unprofitable servants, for we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10.)

Or because of thy wealth hast thou high thoughts? Dost thou not see those before thee, how they departed naked and desolate? did we not come naked into life, and naked also shall depart? who hath high thoughts on having what is another’s? for they who will use it to their own enjoyment alone, are deprived of it however unwillingly, often before death, and at death certainly. But (saith one) while we live we use them as we will. First of all, one doth not lightly see any man using what he hath as he will. Next, if a man do even use things as he will, neither is this a great matter: for the present time is short compared with the ages without end. Art thou high-minded, O man, because thou art rich? on what account? for what cause? for this befalleth also robbers, and thieves, and man-slayers, and effeminate, and whoremongers, and all sorts of wicked men. Wherefore then art thou high-minded? Since if thou hast made meet use of it, thou must not be high-minded, lest thou profane the commandment: but if unmeet, by this indeed [it has come to pass that] thou art become a slave of money, and goods, and art overcome by them. For tell me, if any man sick of a fever should drink much water, which for a short space indeed quencheth his thirst, but afterwards kindleth the flame, ought he to be high-minded? And what, if any man have many cares without cause, ought he therefore to be high-minded? tell me, wherefore? because thou hast many masters? because thou hast ten thousand cares? because many will flatter thee? [Surely not.] For thou art even their slave. And to prove that to thee, hear plainly. The other affections which are within us, are in some cases useful. For instance, Anger is often useful. For (saith he) “unjust wrath shall not be innocent” (Ecclus. 1:22): wherefore it is possible for one to be justly in wrath. And again, “He that is angry with his brother without cause,1 shall be in danger of hell.” (Matt. 5:22.) Again for instance, emulation, desire, [are useful]: the one when it hath reference to the procreation of children, the other when he directs his emulation to excellent things. As Paul also saith, “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” (Gal. 4:18) and, “Covet earnestly the best gifts.” (1 Cor. 12:31.) Both therefore are useful: but an insolent spirit is in no case good, but is always unprofitable and hurtful.

However, if a man must be proud, [let it be] for poverty, not for wealth. Wherefore? Because he who can live upon a little, is far greater and better than he who cannot. For tell me, supposing certain persons called to the Imperial City, if some of them should need neither beasts, nor slaves, nor umbrellas, nor lodging-places, nor sandals, nor vessels, but it should suffice them to have bread, and to take water from the wells,—while others of them should say, “unless ye give us conveyances, and a soft bed, we cannot come; unless also we have many followers, unless we may be allowed continually to rest ourselves, we cannot come, nor unless we have the use of beasts, unless too we may travel but a small portion of the day—and we have need of many other things also”: whom should we admire? those or these? plainly, these who require nothing. So also here: some need many things for the journey through this life; others, nothing. So that it would be more fitting to be proud, for poverty if it were fitting at all.

“But the poor man,” they say, “is contemptible.” Not he, but those who despise him. For why do not I despise those who know not how to admire what they ought? Why, if a person be a painter, he will laugh to scorn all who jeer at him, so long as they are uninstructed; nor cloth he regard the things which they say, but is content with his own testimony. And shall we depend on the opinion of the many? Therefore, we are worthy of contempt when men despise us for our poverty, and we do not despise them nor call them miserable.

And I say not how many sins are produced by wealth, and how many good things by poverty. But rather, neither wealth nor poverty is excellent in itself, but through those who use it. The Christian shines out in poverty rather than in riches. How? He will be less arrogant, more sober-minded, graver, more equitable, more considerate: but he that is in wealth, hath many impediments to these things. Let us see then what the rich man does, or rather, he who useth his wealth amiss. Such an one practiceth rapine, fraud, violence. Men’s unseemly loves, unholy unions, witchcrafts, poisonings, all their other horrors,—wilt thou not find them produced by wealth? Seest thou, that in poverty rather than in wealth the pursuit of virtue is less laborious? For do not, I beseech thee, think that because rich men do not suffer punishment here, neither do they sin. Since if it were easy for a rich man to suffer punishment, thou wouldest surely have found the prisons filled with them. But among its other evils, wealth hath this also, that he who possesseth it, transgressing in evil with impunity, will never be stayed from doing so, but will receive wounds without remedies, and no man will put a bridle on him.

And if a man choose, he will find that poverty affords us more resources even for pleasure. How? Because it is freed from cares, hatred, fighting, contention, strife, from evils out of number.

Therefore let us not follow after wealth, nor be forever envying those who possess much. But let those of us who have wealth, use it aright; and those who have not, let us not grieve for this, but give thanks for all things unto God, because He enableth us to receive with little labor the same reward with the rich, or even (if we will) a greater: and from small means we shall have great gains. For so he that brought the two talents, was admired and honored equally with him who brought the five. Now why? Because he was entrusted with [but] two talents, yet he accomplished all that in him lay, and brought in what was entrusted to him, doubled. Why then are we eager to have much entrusted to us, when we may by a little reap the same fruits, or even greater? when the labor indeed is less, but the reward much more? For more easily will a poor man part with his own, than a rich man who hath many and great possessions. What, know ye not, that the more things a man hath, the more he setteth his love upon? Therefore, lest this befall us, let us not seek after wealth, nor let us be impatient of poverty, nor make haste to be rich: and let those of us who have [riches] so use them as Paul commanded. (“They that have,” saith he, “as though they had not, and they that use this world as not abusing it”—1 Cor. 7:29, 31): that we may obtain the good things promised. And may it be granted to us all to obtain them, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now, and for ever, and world without end. Amen.

HOMILY III

Hebrews 1:6–8.

“And again when He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him. And of the Angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.”

[1.] Our Lord Jesus Christ calls His coming in the flesh an exodus [or going out]: as when He saith, “The sower went out to sow.” (Matt. 13:3.) And again, “I went out from the Father, and am come.” (John 16:28.) And in many places one may see this. But Paul calls it an [eisodus or] coming in, saying, “And when again He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world,” meaning by this Bringing in, His taking on Him flesh.

Now why has he so used the expression? The things signified [thereby] are manifest, and in what respect it is [thus] said. For Christ indeed calls it a Going out, justly; for we were out from God. For as in royal palaces, prisoners and those who have offended the king, stand without, and he who desires to reconcile them, does not bring them in, but himself going out discourses with them, until having made them meet for the king’s presence, he may bring them in, so also Christ hath done. Having gone out to us, that is, having taken flesh, and having discoursed to us of the King’s matters, so He brought us in, having purged the sins, and made reconciliation. Therefore he calls it a Going out.

But Paul names it a Coming in, from the metaphor of those who come to an inheritance and receive any portion or possession. For the saying, “and when again He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world,” means this, “when he putteth the world into His hand.” For when He was made known, then also He obtained possession of the whole thereof, He saith not these things concerning God The Word, but concerning that which is according to the flesh. For if according to John, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him” (John 1:10): how is He “brought in,” otherwise than in the flesh?

“And,” saith he, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Whereas he is about to say something great and lofty, he prepares it before hand, and makes it acceptable, in that he represents the Father as “bringing in” the Son. He had said above, that “He spake to us not by prophets but by His Son”; that the Son is superior to angels; yea and he establishes this from the name [Son]. And here, in what follows, from another fact also. What then may this be? From worship. And he shows how much greater He is, as much as a Master is than a slave; just as any one introducing another into a house straightway commands those having the care thereof to do him reverence; [so] saying in regard to the Flesh, “And let all the Angels of God worship Him.”

Is it then Angels only? No; for hear what follows: “And of His Angels He saith, Which maketh His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire: but unto the Son, Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Behold, the greatest difference! that they are created, but He uncreated. While of His angels He saith, who “maketh”; wherefore of the Son did He not say “Who maketh”? Although he might have expressed the difference as follows: “Of His Angels He saith, Who maketh His Angels spirits, but of the Son, ‘The Lord created Me’: ‘God hath made Him Lord and Christ.’ ” (Prov. 8:22; Acts 2:36.) But neither was the one spoken concerning the Son, nor the other concerning God The Word, but concerning the flesh. For when he desired to express the true difference, he no longer included angels only, but the whole ministering power above. Seest thou how he distinguishes, and with how great clearness, between creatures and Creator, ministers and Lord, the Heir and true Son, and slaves?

[2.] “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Behold a symbol of Kingly Office. “A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom.” Behold again another symbol of Royalty.

Then again with respect to the flesh (ver. 9) “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee.”

What is, “Thy God”? Why, after that he hath uttered a great word, he again qualifieth it. Here he hits both Jews, and the followers of Paul of Samosata, and the Arians, and Marcellus, and Sabellius, and Marcion. How? The Jews, by his indicating two Persons, both God and Man;1 the other Jews,2 I mean the followers of Paul of Samosata, by thus discoursing concerning His eternal existence, and uncreated essence: for by way of distinction, against the word, “He made,” he put, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Against the Arians there is both this same again, and also that He is not a slave; but if a creature, He is a slave. And against Marcellus and the others, that these are two Persons, distinguished in reference to their subsistence.3 And against the Marcionites, that the Godhead is not anointed, but the Manhood.

Next he saith, “Above Thy fellows.” But who are these His “fellows” other than men? that is Christ received “not the Spirit by measure.” (John 3:34.) Seest thou how with the doctrine concerning His uncreated nature he always joins also that of the “Economy”? what can be clearer than this? Didst thou see how what is created and what is begotten are not the same? For otherwise he would not have made the distinction, nor in contrast to the word, “He made” [&c.], have added, “But unto the Son He said, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” Nor would he have called the name, “Son, a more excellent Name,” if it is a sign of the same thing. For what is the excellence? For if that which is created, and that which is begotten be the same, and they [the Angels] were made, what is there [in Him] “more excellent”? Lo! again ὁ Θεὸς, “God,” with the Article.4

[3.] And again he saith (ver. 10–12): “Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands. They shall perish, but Thou remainest, and they shall all wax old as a garment, and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same and Thy years shall not fail.”

Lest hearing the words, “and when He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world”; thou shouldest think it as it were a Gift afterwards super-added to Him; above, he both corrected this beforehand, and again further corrects, saying, “in the beginning”: not now, but from the first. See again he strikes both Paul of Samosata and also Arius a mortal blow, applying to the Son the things which relate to the Father. And withal he has also intimated another thing by the way, greater even than this. For surely he hath incidentally pointed out also the transfiguration of the world, saying, “they shall wax old as a garment, and as a vesture Thou shalt fold them up, and they shall be changed.” Which also he saith in the Epistle to the Romans, that he shall transfigure the world. (See Rom. 8:21.) And showing the facility thereof, he adds, as if a man should fold up a garment so shall He both fold up and change it. But if He with so much ease works the transfiguration and the creation to what is better and more perfect, needed He another for the inferior creation? How far doth your shamelessness go? At the same time too this is a very great consolation, to know that things will not be as they are, but they all shall receive change, and all shall be altered, but He Himself remaineth ever existing, and living without end: “and Thy years,” he saith, “shall not fail.”

[4.] Ver. 13. “But to which of the Angels said He at any time, Sit thou on My right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool?” Behold, again he encourages them, inasmuch as their enemies were to be worsted, and their enemies are the same also with Christ’s.

This again belongs to Sovereignty, to Equal Dignity, to Honor and not weakness, that the Father should be angry for the things done to the Son. This belongs to His great Love and honor towards the Son, as of a father towards a son. For He that is angry in His behalf how is He a stranger to Him? Which also he saith in the second Psalm, “He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn, and the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.” (Ps. 2:4, 5.) And again He Himself saith, “Those that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither before Me, and slay them.” (Luke 19:27.) For that they are His own words, hear also what He saith in another place, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left desolate.” (Luke 13:34, 35.) And again, “The kingdom shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matt. 21:43.) And again, “He that falleth upon that stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever It shall fall, It will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44.) And besides, He who is to be their Judge in that world, much more did He Himself repay them in this. So that the words “Till I make thine enemies thy footstool” are expressive of honor only towards the Son.

Ver. 14. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” What marvel (saith he) if they minister to the Son, when they minister even to our salvation? See how he lifts up their minds, and shows the great honor which God has for us, since He has assigned to Angels who are above us this ministration on our behalf. As if one should say, for this purpose (saith he) He employs them; this is the office of Angels, to minister to God for our salvation. So that it is an angelical work, to do all for the salvation of the brethren: or rather it is the work of Christ Himself, for He indeed saves as Lord, but they as servants. And we, though servants, are yet Angels’ fellow-servants. Why gaze ye so earnestly on the Angels (saith he)? They are servants of the Son of God, and are sent many ways for our sakes, and minister to our salvation. And so they are partners in service with us.

Consider ye how he ascribes no great difference to the kinds of creatures. And yet the space between angels and men is great; nevertheless he brings them down near to us, all but saying, For us they labor, for our sake they run to and fro: on us, as one might say, they wait. This is their ministry, for our sake to be sent every way.

And of these examples both the Old [Testament] is full, and the New. For when Angels bring glad tidings to the shepherds, or to Mary, or to Joseph; when they sit at the sepulcher, when they are sent to say to the disciples, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” (Acts 1:11), when they release Peter out of the prison, when they discourse with Philip, consider how great the honor is; when God sends His Angels for ministers as to friends; when to Cornelius [an Angel] appears, when [an Angel] brings forth all the apostles from the prison, and says, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people the words of this life” (Acts 5:20); and to Paul himself also an Angel appears. Dost thou see that they minister to us on God’s behalf, and that they minister to us in the greatest matters? wherefore Paul saith, “All things are yours, whether life or death, or the world, or things present, or things to come.” (1 Cor. 3:22.)

Well then the Son also was sent, but not as a servant, nor as a minister, but as a Son, and Only-Begotten, and desiring the same things with the Father. Rather indeed, He was not “sent”: for He did not pass from place to place, but took on Him flesh: whereas these change their places, and leaving those in which they were before, so come to others in which they were not.

And by this again he incidentally encourages them, saying, What fear ye? Angels are ministering to us.

[5.] And having spoken concerning the Son, both what related to the Economy, and what related to the Creation, and to His sovereignty, and having shown His co-equal dignity, and that as absolute Master He ruleth not men only but also the powers above, he next exhorts them, having made out his argument, that we ought to give heed to the things which have been heard. (c. 2:1.) “Wherefore we ought to give more earnest heed” (saith he) “to the things which we have heard.” Why “more earnest”? Here he meant “more earnest” than to the Law: but he suppressed the actual expression of it, and yet makes it plain in the course of reasoning, not in the way of counsel, nor of exhortation. For so it was better.

Ver. 2, 3. “For if the word spoken by Angels” (saith he) “was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken to us by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him?”

Why ought we to “give more earnest heed to the things which we have heard”? were not those former things of God, as well as these? Either then he meaneth “more earnest” than [to] the Law, or “very earnest”; not making comparison, God forbid. For since, on account of the long space of time, they had a great opinion of the Old Covenant, but these things had been despised as vet new, he proves (more than his argument required) that we ought rather to give heed to these. How? By saying in effect, Both these and those are of God, but not in a like manner. And this he shows us afterwards: but for the present he treats it somewhat superficially, but afterwards more clearly, saying; “For if that first covenant had been faultless” (c. 8:7), and many other such things: “for that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (c. 8:13.) But as yet he ventures not to say any such thing in the beginning of his discourse, nor until he shall have first occupied and possessed his hearer by his fuller [arguments].

Why then ought we “to give more earnest heed”? “Lest at any time,” saith he, “we should let them slip”—that is, lest at any time we should perish, lest we should fall away. And here he shows the grievousness of this falling away, in that it is a difficult thing for that which hath fallen away to return again, inasmuch as it hath happened through wilful negligence. And he took this form of speech from the Proverbs. For, saith he, “my son [take heed] lest thou fall away” (Prov. 3:21, LXX.), showing both the easiness of the fall, and the grievousness of the ruin. That is, our disobedience is not without danger. And while by his mode of reasoning he shows that the chastisement is greater, yet again he leaves it in the form of a question, and not in the conclusion. For indeed this is to make one’s discourse inoffensive, when one does not in every case of one’s self infer the judgment, but leaves it in the power of the hearer himself to give sentence: and this would render them more open to conviction. And both the prophet Nathan doth the same in the Old [Testament], and in Matthew Christ, saying, “What will He do to the husbandmen” (Matt. 21:40) of that vineyard? so compelling them to give sentence themselves: for this is the greatest victory.

Next, when he had said, “For if the word which was spoken by Angels was steadfast”—he did not add, much more that by Christ: but letting this pass, he said what is less, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” And see how he makes the comparison. “For if the word which was spoken by Angels,” saith he. There, “by Angels,” here, “by the Lord”—and there “a word,” but here, “salvation.”

Then lest any man should say, Thy sayings, O Paul, are they Christ’s? he proves their trustworthiness both from his having heard these things of Him, and from their being now spoken by God; since not merely a voice is wafted, as in the case of Moses, but signs are done, and facts bear witness.

[6.] But what is this, “For if the word spoken by Angels was steadfast”? For in the Epistle to the Galatians also he saith to this effect, “Being ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator.” (Gal. 3:19.) And again, “Ye received a law by the disposition of Angels, and have not kept it.” (Acts 7:53.) And everywhere he saith it was given by angels. Some indeed say that Moses is signified; but without reason. For here he says Angels in the plural: and the Angels too which he here speaks of, are those in Heaven. What then is it? Either he means the Decalogue only (for there Moses spake, and God answered him—Ex. 19:19),—or that angels were present, God disposing them in order,—or that he speaks thus in regard of all things said and done in the old Covenant, as if Angels had part in them. But how is it said in another place, “The Law was given by Moses” (John 1:17), and here “by Angels”? For it is said, “And God came down in thick darkness.”1 (Ex. 19:16, 20.)

“For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast.” What is “was steadfast”? True, as one may say; and faithful in its proper season; and all the things which had been spoken came to pass. Either this is his meaning, or that they prevailed, and the threatenings were coming to be accomplished. Or by “the word” he means injunctions. For apart from the Law, Angels sent from God enjoined many things: for instance at Bochim, in the Judges, in [the history of] Samson. (Judg. 2:1; 13:3.) For this is the cause why he said not “the Law” but “the word.” And he seems to me haply rather to mean this, viz., those things which are committed to the management of angels. What shall we say then? The angels who were entrusted with the charge of the nation were then present, and they themselves made the trumpets, and the other things, the fire, the thick darkness. (Ex. 19:16.)

“And every transgression and disobedience,” saith he. Not this one and that one, but “every” one. Nothing, he saith, remained unavenged, but “received a just recompense of reward,” instead of [saying] punishment. Why now spake he thus? Such is the manner of Paul, not to make much account of his phrases, but indifferently to put down words of evil sound, even in matters of good meaning. As also in another place he saith, “Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”2 (2 Cor. 10:5.) And again he hath put “the recompense” for punishment,3 as here he calleth punishment “reward.” “If it be a righteous thing,” he saith, “with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled rest.” (2 Thess. 1:6, 7.) That is, justice was not violated, but God went forth against them, and caused the penalty to come round on the sinners, though not all their sins are made manifest, but only where the express ordinances were transgressed.

“How then shall we,” he saith, “escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Hereby he signified, that that other salvation was no great thing. Well too did he add the “So great.” For not from wars (he saith) will He now rescue us, nor bestow on us the earth and the good things that are in the earth, but it will be the dissolution of death, the destruction of the devil, the kingdom of Heaven, everlasting life. For all these things he hath briefly expressed, by saying, “if we neglect so great salvation.”

[7.] Then he subjoins what makes this worthy of belief. “Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord”: that is, had its beginning from the fountain itself. It was not a man who brought it over1 into the earth, nor any created power, but the Only-Begotten Himself.

“And was confirmed unto us by them that heard [Him].” What is “confirmed”? It was believed,2 or, it came to pass. For (he saith) we have the earnest;3 that is, it hath not been extinguished, it hath not ceased, but it is strong and prevaileth. And the cause is, the Divine power works therein. It means they who heard from the Lord, themselves confirmed us. This is a great thing and trustworthy: which also Luke saith in the beginning of his Gospel, “As they delivered unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.” (Luke 1:2.)

How then was it confirmed? What if those that heard were forgers? saith some one. This objection then he overthrows, and shows that the grace was not human. If they had gone astray, God would not have borne witness to them; for he subjoined (ver. 4), “God also bearing witness with them.” Both they indeed bear witness, and God beareth witness too. How doth He bear witness? not by word or by voice, (though this also would have been worthy of belief): but how? “By signs, and wonders, and divers miracles.” (Well said he, “divers miracles,” declaring the abundance of the gifts: which was not so in the former dispensation, neither so great signs and so various.) That is, we did not believe them simply, but through signs and wonders: wherefore we believe not them, but God Himself.

“And by gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will.”

What then, if wizards also do signs, and the Jews said that He “cast out devils through Beelzebub”? (Luke 11:15.) But they do not such kind of signs: therefore said he “divers miracles”: for those others were not miracles, [or powers,4] but weakness and fancy, and things altogether vain. Wherefore he said, “by gifts of the Holy Ghost according to His own will.”

[8.] Here he seems to me to intimate something further. For it is not likely there were many there who had gifts, but that these had failed, upon their becoming more slothful. In order then that even in this he might comfort them, and not leave them to fall away, he referred all to the will of God. He knows (he says) what is expedient, and for whom, and apportions His grace accordingly. Which also he [Paul] does in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, “God hath set every one of us, as it pleased Him.” (1 Cor. 12:18.) And again, “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1 Cor. 12:7.)

“According to His will.” He shows that the gift is according to the will of the Father. But oftentimes on account of their unclean and slothful life many have not received a gift, and sometimes also those whose life is good and pure have not received one. Why, I pray you? Lest they might be made haughty, that they might not be puffed up, that they might not grow more negligent, that they might not be more excited. For if even without a gift, the mere consciousness of a pure life be sufficient to lift a man up, much more when the grace is added also. Wherefore to the humble, to the simple, it was rather given, and especially to the simple: for it is said, “in singleness and gladness of heart.” (Acts 2:46.) Yea, and hereby also he rather urged them on, and if they were growing negligent gave them a spur. For the humble, and he who imagines no great things concerning himself, becomes more earnest when he has received a gift, in that he has obtained what is beyond his deserts, and thinks that he is not worthy thereof. But he who thinks he hath done well, reckoning it to be his due, is puffed up. Wherefore God dispenseth this profitably: which one may see taking place also in the Church: for one hath the word of teaching, another hath not power to open his mouth. Let not this man (he says) be grieved because of this. For “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1 Cor. 12:7.) For if a man that is an householder knoweth to whom he should entrust anything, much more God, who understands the mind of men, “who knoweth all things or ever they come into being.”1 One thing only is worthy of grief, Sin: there is nothing else.

Say not, Wherefore have I not riches? or, If I had, I would give to the poor. Thou knowest not, if thou hadst them, whether thou wouldest not the rather be covetous. For now indeed thou sayest these things, but being put to the trial thou wouldest be different. Since also when we are satisfied, we think that we are able to fast; but when we have gone without a little space, other thoughts come into us. Again, when we are out of the way of strong drink, we think ourselves able to master our appetite, but no longer so, when we are caught by it.

Say not, Wherefore had I not the gift of teaching? or, If I had had it, I should have edified innumerable souls. Thou knowest not, if thou hadst it, whether it would not be to thy condemnation,—whether envy, whether sloth, would not have disposed thee to hide thy talent. Now, indeed, thou art now free from all these, and though thou give not “the portion of meat” (Luke 12:42), thou art not called to account: but then, thou wouldest have been responsible for many.

[9.] And besides, neither now art thou without the gift. Show in the little, what thou wouldst have been, if thou hadst had the other. “For if” (he says) “ye are not faithful in that which is little, how shalt any one give you that which is great?” (Luke 16:11.) Give such proof as did the widow; she had two farthings,2 and she cast in all, whatsoever she possessed.

Dost thou seek riches? Prove that thou thinkest lightly of the few things, that I may trust thee also concerning the many things. But if thou dost not think lightly even of these, much less wilt thou do so of the other.

Again, in speech, prove that thou canst use fitly exhortation and counsel. Hast thou not external eloquence? hast thou not store of thoughts? But nevertheless thou knowest these common things. Thou hast a child, thou hast a neighbor, thou hast a friend, thou hast a brother, thou hast kinsmen. And though publicly before the Church, thou art not able to draw out a long discourse, these thou canst exhort in private. Here, there is no need of rhetoric, nor of elaborate discourse: prove in these, that if thou hadst skill of speech, thou wouldest not have neglected it. But if in the small matter thou art not in earnest, how shall I trust thee concerning the great?

For, that every man can do this, hear what Paul saith, how he charged even lay people; “Edify,” he says, “one another, as also ye do.” (1 Thess. 5:11.) And, “Comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18.) God knoweth how He should distribute to every man. Art thou better than Moses? hear how he shrinks from the hardship. “Am I,” saith he, “able to bear them? for Thou saidst to me, Bear them up, as a nursing-father would bear up the sucking-child.” (Num. 11:12.) What then did God? He took of his spirit and gave unto the others, showing that neither when he bare them was the gift his own, but of the Spirit. If thou hadst had the gift, thou wouldst perchance3 have been lifted up, perchance wouldst thou have been turned out of the way. Thou knowest not thyself as God knoweth thee. Let us not say, To what end is that? on what account is this? When God dispenseth, let us not demand an account of Him: for this [is] of the uttermost impiety and folly. We are slaves, and slaves far apart from our Master, knowing not even the things which are before us.

[10.] Let us not then busy ourselves about the counsel of God, but whatsoever He hath given, this let us guard, though it be small, though it be the lowest, and we shall be altogether approved. Or rather, none of the gifts of God is small: art thou grieved because thou hast not the gift of teaching? Then tell me, which seems to you the greater, to have the gift of teaching, or the gift of driving away diseases? Doubtless the latter. But what? Tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to give eyes to the blind than even to drive away diseases? But what? Tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to raise the dead than to give eyes to the blind? What again, tell me; doth it not seem to thee greater to do this by shadows and napkins, than by a word? Tell me then, which wouldst thou? Raise the dead with shadows and napkins, or have the gift of teaching? Doubtless thou wilt say the former, to raise the dead with shadows and napkins. If then I should show to thee, that there is another gift far greater than this, and that thou dost not receive it when it is in thy power to receive it, art not thou justly deprived of those others? And this gift not one or two, but all may have. I know that ye open wide your mouths and are amazed, at being to hear that it is in your power to have a greater gift than raising the dead, and giving eyes to the blind, doing the same things which were done in the time of the Apostles. And it seems to you past belief.

What then is this gift? charity. Nay, believe me; for the word is not mine, but Christ’s, speaking by Paul. For what saith he? “Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:31.) What is this, “yet more excellent”? What he means is this. The Corinthians were proud over their gifts, and those having tongues, the least gift, were puffed up against the rest. He saith therefore, Do ye by all means desire gifts? I show unto you a way of gifts not merely excelling but far more excellent. Then he saith, “Though I speak with the tongues of Angels, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I have faith so as to remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1, 2.)

Hast thou seen the gift? Covet earnestly this gift. This is greater than raising the dead. This is far better than all the rest. And that it is so, hear what Christ Himself saith, discoursing with His disciples, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples.” (John 13:35.) And showing how, He mentioned not the miracles, but what? “If ye have love one with another.” And again He saith to the Father, “Hereby shall they know that Thou hast sent Me, if they be one.” (John 17:21.) And He said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that ye love one another.” (John 13:34.) Such an one therefore is more venerable and glorious than those who raise the dead; with reason. For that indeed is wholly of God’s grace, but this, of thine own earnestness also. This is of one who is a Christian indeed: this shows the disciple of Christ, the crucified, the man that hath nothing common with earth. Without this, not even martyrdom can profit.

And as a proof, see this plainly. The blessed Paul took two of the highest virtues, or rather three; namely, those which consist in miracles, in knowledge, in life. And without this the others, he said, are nothing. And I will say how these are nothing. “Though I give my goods to feed the poor,” he says, “and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3.) For it is possible not to be charitable even when one feeds the poor and exhausts one’s means.

[11.] And indeed these things have been sufficiently declared by us, in the place concerning Charity:1 and thither we refer the readers. Meanwhile, as I was saying, let us covet earnestly the Gift, let us love one another; and we shall need nothing else for the perfect acquisition of virtue, but all will be easy to us without toils and we shall do all perfectly with much diligence.

But see, even now, it is said, we love one another. For one man hath two friends, and another three. But this is not to love for God’s sake, but for the sake of being beloved. But to love for God’s sake hath not this as its principle of Love; but such an one will be disposed towards all men as towards brethren; loving those that are of the same faith as being true brothers; heretics and Heathen and Jews, brothers indeed by nature, but vile and unprofitable,—pitying and wearing himself out and weeping for them. Herein we shall be like God if we love all men, even our enemies; not, if we work miracles. For we regard even God with admiration when He worketh wonders, yet much more, when He showeth love towards man, when He is long-suffering. If then even in God this is worthy of much admiration, much more in men is it evident that this rendereth us admirable.

This then let us zealously seek after: and we shall be no way inferior to Paul and Peter and those who have raised innumerable dead, though we may not be able to drive away a fever. But without this [Love], though we should work greater miracles even than the Apostles themselves, though we should expose ourselves to innumerable dangers for the faith: there will be to us no profit from any. And these things it is not I that say, but he, the very nourisher of Charity, knoweth these things. To him then let us be obedient; for thus we shall be able to attain to the good things promised, of which may we all be made partakers, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father with the Holy Ghost, be the glory, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Hebrews 1:1-2

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 9, 2018

HOMILY I

Hebrews 1:1, 2.

“God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath at the end of the days1 spoken unto us by His Son: whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds.”

[1.] Truly, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Rom. 5:20.) This at least the blessed Paul intimates here also, in the very beginning of his Epistle to the Hebrews. For since as it was likely that afflicted, worn out by evils, and judging of things thereby, they would think themselves worse off than all other men,—he shows that herein they had rather been made partakers of greater, even very exceeding, grace; arousing the hearer at the very opening of his discourse. Wherefore he says, “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath at the end of the days spoken unto us by His Son.”

Why did he [Paul] not oppose “himself” to “the prophets”? Certainly, he was much greater than they, inasmuch as a greater trust was committed to him. Yet he doth not so. Why? First, to avoid speaking great things concerning himself. Secondly, because his hearers were not yet perfect. And thirdly, because he rather wished to exalt them, and to show that their superiority was great. As if he had said, What so great matter is it that He sent prophets to our fathers? For to us [He has sent] His own only-begotten Son Himself.

And well did he begin thus, “At sundry times and in divers manners,” for he points out that not even the prophets themselves saw God; nevertheless, the Son saw Him. For the expressions, “at sundry times and in divers manners” are the same as “in different ways.” “For I” (saith He) “have multiplied visions, and used similitudes by the ministry of the Prophets.” (Hos. 12:10.) Wherefore the excellency consists not in this alone, that to them indeed prophets were sent, but to us the Son; but that none of them saw God, but the Only-begotten Son saw Him. He doth not indeed at once assert this, but by what he says afterwards he establishes it, when he speaks concerning His human nature; “For to which of the Angels said He, Thou art My Son,” (ver. 5), and, “Sit thou on My right hand”? (Ver. 13.)

And look on his great wisdom. First he shows the superiority from the prophets. Then having established this as acknowledged, he declares that to them indeed He spake by the prophets, but to us by the Only-begotten. Then [He spake] to them by Angels, and this again he establishes, with good reason (for angels also held converse with the Jews): yet even herein we have the superiority, inasmuch as the Master [spake] to us, but to them servants, and prophets, fellow-servants.

[2.] Well also said he, “at the end of the days,” for by this he both stirs them up and encourages them desponding of the future. For as he says also in another place, “The Lord is at hand, be careful for nothing” (Phil. 4:5, 6), and again, “For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11): so also here. What then is it which he says? That whoever is spent in the conflict, when he hears of the end thereof, recovers his breath a little, knowing that it is the end indeed of his labors, but the beginning of his rest.

“Hath in the end of the days spoken unto us in [His] Son.” Behold again he uses the saying, “in [His] Son,”2 for “through the Son,”3 against those who assert that this phrase is proper to the Spirit.4 Dost thou see that the [word] “in” is “through”?5

And the expression, “In times past,” and this, “In the end of the days,” shadows forth some other meaning:—that when a long time had intervened, when we were on the edge of punishment, when the Gifts had failed, when there was no expectation of deliverance, when we were expecting to have less than all—then we have had more.

And see how considerately he hath spoken it. For he said not, “Christ spake” (albeit it was He who did speak), but inasmuch as their souls were weak, and they were not yet able to hear the things concerning Christ, he says, “God hath spoken by Him.” What meanest thou? did God speak through the Son? Yes. What then? Is it thus thou showest the superiority? for here thou hast but pointed out that both the New and the Old [Covenants] are of One and the same: and that this superiority is not great. Wherefore he henceforth follows on upon this argument, saying, “He spake unto us by [His] Son.”

(Note, how Paul makes common cause, and puts himself on a level with the disciples, saying, He spake “to us”: and yet He did not speak to him, but to the Apostles, and through them to the many. But he lifts them [the Hebrews] up, and declares that He spake also to them. And as yet he doth not at all reflect on the Jews. For almost all to whom the prophets spake, were a kind of evil and polluted persons. But as yet the discourse is not of these: but hitherto of the gifts derived from God.)

“Whom He appointed,” saith he, “heir of all.” What is “whom He appointed heir of all”? He speaks here of the flesh [the human nature]. As He also says in the second Psalm, “Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance.” (Ps. 2:8.) For no longer is “Jacob the portion of the Lord” nor “Israel His inheritance” (Deut. 32:9), but all men: that is to say, He hath made Him Lord of all: which Peter also said in the Acts, “God hath made Him both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36.) But he has used the name “Heir,” declaring two things: His proper sonship1 and His indefeasible sovereignty. “Heir of all,” that is, of all the world.

[3.] Then again he brings back his discourse to its former point. “By whom also He made the worlds [the ages].”2 Where are those who say, There was [a time] when He was not?

Then, using degrees of ascent, he uttered that which is far greater than all this, saying,

Ver. 3, 4. “Who, (being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power,) when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made3 so much better than the Angels as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

O! the wisdom of the Apostle! or rather, not the wisdom of Paul, but the grace of the Spirit is the thing to wonder at. For surely he uttered not these things of his own mind, nor in that way did he find his wisdom. (For whence could it be? From the knife, and the skins, or the workshop?) But it was from the working of God. For his own understanding did not give birth to these thoughts, which was then so mean and slender as in nowise to surpass the baser sort; (for how could it, seeing it spent itself wholly on bargains and skins?) but the grace of the Spirit shows forth its strength by whomsoever it will.

For just as one, wishing to lead up a little child to some lofty place, reaching up even to the top of Heaven, does this gently and by degrees, leading him upwards by the steps from below,—then when he has set him on high, and bidden him to gaze downwards, and sees him turning giddy and confused, and dizzy, taking hold of him, he leads him down to the lower stand, allowing him to take breath; then when he hath recovered it, leads him up again, and again brings him down;—just so did the blessed Paul likewise, both with the Hebrews and everywhere, having learnt it from his Master. For even He also did so; sometimes He led His hearers up on high, and sometimes He brought them down, not allowing them to remain very long.

See him, then, even here—by how many steps he led them up, and placed them near the very summit of religion, and then or ever they grow giddy, and are seized with dizziness, how he leads them again lower down, and allowing them to take breath, says, “He spake unto us by [His] Son,” “whom He appointed Heir of all things.”4 For the name of Son is so far common. For where a true5 [Son] it is understood of, He is above all: but however that may be, for the present he proves that He is from above.

And see how he says it: “Whom He appointed,” saith he, “heir of all things.” The phrase, “He appointed Heir,” is humble. Then he placed them on the higher step, adding, “by whom also He made the worlds.” Then on a higher still, and after which there is no other, “who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.” Truly he has led them to unapproachable light, to the very brightness itself. And before they are blinded see how he gently leads them down again, saying, “and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty.” He does not simply say, “He sat down,” but “after the purifying, He sat town,” for he hath touched on the Incarnation, and his utterance is again lowly.

Then again having said a little by the way (for he says, “on the right hand of the Majesty on high”), [he turns] again to what is lowly; “being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” Henceforward then he treats here of that which is according to the flesh, since the phrase “being made better” doth not express His essence according to the Spirit,1 (for that was not “made” but “begotten,”) but according to the flesh: for this was “made.” Nevertheless the discourse here is not about being called into2 existence. But just as John says, “He that cometh after me, is preferred before me” (John 1:15, 30), that is, higher in honor and esteem; so also here, “being made so much better than the angels”—that is, higher in esteem and better and more glorious, “by how much He hath obtained by inheritance a more excellent name than they.” Seest thou that he is speaking of that which is according to the flesh? For this Name,3 God the Word ever had; He did not afterwards “obtain it by inheritance”; nor did He afterwards become “better than the Angels, when He had purged our sins”; but He was always “better,” and better without all comparison.4 For this is spoken of Him according to the flesh.

So truly it is our way also, when we talk of man, to speak things both high and low. Thus, when we say, “Man is nothing,” “Man is earth,” “Man is ashes,” we call the whole by the worse part. But when we say, “Man is an immortal animal,” and “Man is rational, and of kin to those on high,” we call again the whole by the better part. So also, in the case of Christ, sometimes Paul discourseth from the less and sometimes from the better; wishing both to establish the economy, and also to teach about the incorruptible nature.

[4.] Since then “He hath purged our sins,” let us continue pure; and let us receive no stain, but preserve the beauty which He hath implanted in us, and His comeliness undefiled and pure, “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” (Eph. 5:27.) Even little sins are “a spot and a wrinkle,” such a thing, I mean, as Reproach, Insult, Falsehood.

Nay, rather not even are these small, but on the contrary very great: yea so great as to deprive a man even of the kingdom of Heaven. How, and in what manner? “He that calleth his brother fool, is in danger” (He saith) “of hell-fire.” (Matt. 5:22.) But if it be so with him who calls a man “fool,” which seems to be the slightest of all things, and rather mere children’s talk; what sentence of punishment will not he incur, who calleth him malignant and crafty and envious, and casteth at him ten thousand other reproaches? What more fearful than this?

Now suffer, I beseech you, the word [of exhortation].5 For if he that “doeth” [aught] to “one of the least, doeth it to Him” (Matt. 25:40), and he that “doeth it not to one of the least doeth it not to Him” (Matt. 25:45), how is it not the same also in the matter of good or evil speaking? He that reviles his brother, reviles God: and he that honors his brother, honors God. Let us train therefore our tongue to speak good words. For “refrain,” it is said, “thy tongue from evil.” (Ps. 34:13.) For God gave it not that we should speak evil, that we should revile, that we should calumniate one another; but to sing hymns to God withal, to speak those things which “give grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29), things for edification, things for profit.

Hast thou spoken evil of a man? What is thy gain, entangling thyself in mischief together with him? For thou hast obtained the reputation of a slanderer. For there is not any, no not any evil, which stops at him that suffers it, but it includes the doer also. As for instance, the envious person seems indeed to plot against another, but himself first reaps the fruit of his sin, wasting and wearing himself away, and being hated of all men. The cheat deprives another of his money; yea and himself too of men’s good will: and causes himself to be evil spoken of by all men. Now reputation is much better than money, for the one it is not easy to wash out, whereas it is easy to gain possession of the other. Or rather, the absence of the one doth no hurt to him that wanteth it; but the absence of the other makes you reproached and ridiculed, and an object of enmity and warfare to all.

The passionate man again first punishes and tears himself in pieces, and then him with whom he is angry.

Just so the evil speaker disgraces first himself and then him who is evil-spoken of: or, it may be, even this hath proved beyond his power, and while he departs with the credit of a foul and detestable kind of person, he causes the other to be loved the more. For when a man hearing a bad name given him, doth not requite the giver in the same kind, but praises and admires, he doth not praise the other, but himself. For I before observed that, as calumnies against our neighbors first touch those who devise the mischief, so also good works done towards our neighbors, gladden first those who do them. The parent either of good, or evil, justly reaps the fruit of it first himself. And just as water, whether it be brackish or sweet, fills the vessels of those who resort to it, but lessens not the fountain which sends it forth; so surely also, both wickedness and virtue, from whatever person they proceed, prove either his joy or his ruin.

So far as to the things of this world; but what speech may recount the things of that world, either the goods or the evils? There is none. For as to the blessings, they surpass all thought, not speech only; for their opposites are expressed indeed in terms familiar to us. For fire, it is said, is there, and darkness, and bonds, and a worm that never dieth. But this represents not only the things which are spoken of, but others more intolerable. And to convince thee, consider at once this first: if it be fire, how is it also darkness? Seest thou how that fire is more intolerable than this? For it hath no light. If it be fire, how is it forever burning? Seest thou how something more intolerable than this happens? For it is not quenched. Yea, therefore it is called unquenchable. Let us then consider how great a misery it must be, to be forever burning, and to be in darkness, and to utter unnumbered groanings, and to gnash the teeth, and not even to be heard. For if here any one of those ingeniously brought up, should he be cast into prison, speaks of the mere ill savor, and the being laid in darkness, and the being bound with murderers, as more intolerable than any death: think what it is when we are burning with the murderers of the whole world, neither seeing nor being seen, but in so vast a multitude thinking that we are alone. For the darkness and gloom doth not allow our distinguishing those who are near to us, but each will burn as if he were thus suffering alone. Moreover, if darkness of itself afflicteth and terrifieth our souls, how then will it be when together with the darkness there are likewise so great pains and burnings?

Wherefore I entreat you to be ever revolving these things with yourselves, and to submit to the pain of the words, that we may not undergo the punishment of the things. For assuredly, all these things shall be, and those whose doings have deserved those chambers of torture no man shall rescue, not father, nor mother, nor brother. “For a brother redeemeth not,” He saith; “shall a man redeem?” (Ps. 49:7, LXX.), though he have much confidence, though he have great power with God. For it is He Himself who rewards every one according to his works, and upon these depends our salvation or punishment.

Let us make then to ourselves “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke 16:9), that is: Let us give alms; let us exhaust our possessions upon them, that so we may exhaust that fire: that we may quench it, that we may have boldness there. For there also it is not they who receive us, but our own work: for that it is not simply their being our friends which can save us, learn from what is added. For why did He not say, “Make to yourselves friends, that they may receive you into their everlasting habitations,” but added also the manner? For saying, “of the mammon of unrighteousness,” He points out that we must make friends of them by means of our possessions, showing that mere friendship will not protect us, unless we have good works, unless we spend righteously the wealth unrighteously gathered.

Moreover, this our discourse, of Almsgiving I mean, fits not only the rich, but also the needy. Yea even if there be any person who supporteth himself by begging, even for him is this word. For there is no one, so poverty-stricken, however exceeding poor he may be, as not to be able to provide “two mites.” (Luke 21:2.) It is therefore possible that a person giving a small sum from small means, should surpass those who have large possessions and give more; as that widow did. For not by the measure of what is given, but by the means and willingness of the givers is the extent of the alms-deed estimated. In all cases the will is needed, in all, a right disposition; in all, love towards God. If with this we do all things, though having little we give little, God will not turn away His face, but will receive it as great and admirable: for He regards the will, not the gifts: and if He see that to be great, He assigneth His decrees and judges accordingly, and maketh them partakers of His everlasting benefits.

Which may God grant us all to obtain, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.

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A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture [Mark 2:1–12. Mat. 9:1–8. Luke 5:17–26]

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 8, 2018

The Cure of the Paralytic, and Forgiveness of Sin
[Mark 2:1–12. Mat. 9:1–8. Luke 5:17–26]

JESUS returned to Capharnaum, and, as He was teaching in a private house, a great multitude of people, coming to hear Him, filled the house and crowded round it. But behold, four men brought a paralytic1 on a bed, and as they could not get near to Jesus on account of the throng2, they went up on the roof3 of the house, and making an opening4, let down the paralytic in his bed.

Jesus, seeing their faith5, said: “Son, be of good heart, thy sins6 are forgiven thee.”

Now there were among the crowd some Scribes and Pharisees7, who, hearing these words, thought within themselves: “He blasphemeth. Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus, seeing their thoughts, said to them: “Why do you think evil in your hearts? Which is easier8, to say: ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee?’ or to say: ‘Rise up, take thy bed and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, I say to thee: ‘Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house.’ ” Immediately the man arose, took up his bed9 and went forth in the sight of all. And all the people wondered and glorified God10, saying: “We never saw the like!”

Note:

1. A paralytic. i. e. one who was wholly paralysed, so that he could use none of his limbs, but had to be carried about.

2. The throng. The people being packed together as tightly as they could be in the passages and rooms, passing through was quite an impossibility.

3. On the roof. A staircase on the outside of the house led directly to the roof.

4. An opening. By removing a part of the roof, which was at the same time the ceiling of the room below.

5. Their faith. The extraordinary amount of trouble they had taken to convey the sick man to Jesus as speedily as possible, proved both their faith and their desire for help.

6. Thy sins. As the lame man lay before Jesus and raised his eyes to Him, he trembled before the Holy One of God, and, contrite and abashed, cast down his eyes. But Jesus beheld his contrition, and tenderly, addressing him as “Son”, comforted him and forgave him his sins

7. Scribes and Pharisees. Our Lord’s miracles and increasing fame in Galilee had stirred up the Pharisees and Scribes throughout the whole land. They came to Capharnaum not only from Galilee, but also from Judæa and Jerusalem to watch Jesus (Luke 5:17).

8. Which is easier? It is easy enough to say the first, for nobody can look into a man’s soul, and see whether he be really cleansed from sin or not. Any deceiver or false prophet could say such words without his deception being proved; but to say to a lame man “Rise up and walk” is a very much harder thing, for it can be proved on the spot whether his words have any power or no.

9. Took up his bed. Our Lord, by His word, cured the man so instantaneously that he was able to take up and carry off his bed without help. This should have proved to the Pharisees that our Lord’s former words: “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” had been equally powerful, and had remitted the man’s sins. Jesus had proved that He was no blasphemer; and as his enemies could not deny His power, they remained silent.

10. Glorified God. The people were seized with a holy awe, for they felt that only a divine power could have worked such a miracle: and the Gospel says that “they glorified God who gave such power to men”. For as Jesus, the Son of Man, stood before them in a lowly human form, they did not perceive that He was God, and had worked this miracle by His own power, but believed that God had given the power to Him, a man.

Commentary

Proofs of our Lord’s Divinity. 1. He saw the contrition, faith and hope which were in the soul of the paralysed man, in the same manner as He read the secret thoughts of the Pharisees: therefore He was Omniscient. God alone is Omniscient: therefore Jesus is God. 2. Jesus is Omnipotent; for by His will and word He instantaneously cured the lame man. Even as at the creation He said: “Let things be,” so now He said to the palsied man: “Arise!” 3. Jesus, by His own power, absolved the lame man of his sins. This, as the Pharisees very rightly judged, is the prerogative of God, who is offended by sins, and who knows the heart of the sinner: therefore Jesus is God. Had He not been God, He would have been assuming to Himself a divine right and power, and would have been a deceiver and a blasphemer.

Blasphemy. It was the Pharisees who were blasphemers, because, in spite of His miracles and holiness, they despised Jesus and accused Him of blasphemy. Their reason must have told them that God would not be with a blasphemer, and that therefore no blasphemer could work such mighty miracles. But their evil wills and evil hearts obscured their reason, and made them obstinate and defiant. Their unbelief was without excuse.

The dignity of the soul. Jesus first healed the palsied man’s soul, and then his body. He desired to teach us by this that He came to cure and save souls, that the soul is worth more than the body, and that the health of the body can only avail those whose soul is healthy. Our love of ourselves ought therefore to be bestowed first of all on our souls.

The necessity of contrition. The sick man possessed real contrition. His sins oppressed and tormented him more than his bodily infirmity; and with one beseeching glance he prayed to Jesus for forgiveness. Jesus saw that the state of his soul pained him more than that of his body, and that what he most craved for was pardon and peace; and therefore He said to him: “Son, be of good heart, thy sins are for given.” If the sick man had no contrition, he would not have obtained pardon.

The Compassion of Jesus on repentant sinners. He lovingly addressed the sick man as “son”, and consoled him.

The object of sufferings. The severe malady of the lame man was perhaps a consequence or a punishment of his sins. God allowed this terrible infirmity to overtake this sinner and torment his body, so that he might learn to repent of his sins, and thus save his soul from everlasting perdition.

Sins of thought. The Pharisees sinned grievously by thought.

The forgiveness of sins by priests. You have just heard that God alone can forgive sins. But does not a priest forgive sins in the Sacrament of Penance? Yes, but he does so not in his own name and by his own authority as Jesus did, but in the name and by the authority received from God—our Lord having left to the apostles and their successors the office of forgiving sins. By the Sacrament of Penance our Lord gave to his Church a really divine power, for the comfort and salvation of sinful men. Let us too, then, “glorify God who has given such power to men”.

Indulgences. The palsied man receives first the forgiveness of his sins, then his temporal punishment (the palsy) is removed. This is exactly what is done by indulgences, which are granted for the purpose of removing temporal punishment. Only he who is cleansed from mortal sin and is in a state of grace, can gain an indulgence.

Application. Do you suppress all bad thoughts—such as envy, pride, impurity, unkindness—as quickly as possible? God sees into your heart. If a bad thought occurs to you, say at once: “Begone!” and turn your thoughts to something that is holy.

Do you make a good act of thanksgiving after you have been to confession?

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 1:1-4

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2018

Lk 1:1  Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a narration of the things that have been accomplished among us,

Forasmuch as many. Maldonatus is of opinion that the Evangelists Matthew and Mark are intended; but these were not many, but only two. S. Luke rather seems here to allude to the Apocryphal Gospels, which were circulated under the names of Matthias, Thomas, and other apostles.

That have been accomplished. Completæ sunt, Vulgate. πεπληζοφζημένων, Greek. This word signifies—1. fully accomplished; 2. surely ascertained: as it is rendered by S. Ambrose, Theophylact, Euthymius.

Lk 1:2  According as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word: 

Who from the beginning were eyewitnesses, &c. Ipsi viderunt, Vulgate. αυ̉τόπται καὶ ύπηζέται γενόμενοι το̃υ λόγου, Greek: that is who were eyewitnesses (oculares spectactores) and ministers of the word: which we may understands—1. of Christ, for He is the Word of the Eternal Father; the meaning then will be, “As the Apostles who saw Christ Himself and ministered to Him delivered them to us.” 2. Of ordinary preaching; the meaning then will be, “As they delivered them who saw the deeds of Christ, and were sent by Him to preach the Gospel.”

Lk 1:3  It seemed good to me also, having diligently attained to all things from the beginning, to write to thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 

Having diligently attained. παζηκολουθηκότι, Greek: that is “carefully investigating,” and therefore “having understood.”

In order. καθεξη̃ς, Greek; that is—1. successively, 2. distinctly, in order so as to relate, first the conception of Christ, then His nativity, afterwards His life, and lastly His death and resurrection.

Theophilus. Theophilus was a noble and chief man of Antioch, who was converted by S. Peter and dedicated his house as a church in which S Peter held assemblies of Christians, and placed his chair as primate, as S. Clement relates Recog. lib. 10, cap. ult. Baronius conjectures that S. Luke, who was a physician and painter of Antioch, wrote to Theophilus as a citizen and as his own intimate friend; Theophylact adds that S. Luke was a catechumen of Theophilus, for S. Peter by himself was not able to instruct the multitude who came together to be taught the faith of Christ, and therefore he made use of the labours of many others for instructing the faithful. He is called most excellent, which was a title given to governors and magistrates; he seems therefore to have been a senator or governor of Antioch.

Lk 1:4  That thou mayest know the verity of those words in which thou hast been instructed. 

That thou mayest know the verity. Veritatem, truth, Vulgate. άσφάλειαν, Greek, certainty, stability.

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Pope St Gregory the Great’s Advent Homily on Luke 21:25-33

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 20, 2018

HOMILY BY POPE ST. GREGORY
PREACHED IN THE
CHURCH OF ST. PETER
FIRST HOMILY ON THE GOSPELS
On Luke 21:25-33

I. As our adorable Saviour will expect at His coming to find us ready, Hewarns us of the terrors that will accompany the latter days in order to wean us from the love of this world; and He foretells the misery which will be the prelude to this inevitable time, so that, if we neglect in the quietness of this life to fear a God of compassion, the fearful spectacle of the approaching last judgment may impress us with a wholesome dread. A short time before He had said: Nation shall vise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there shall be great earth quakes in divers places, and pestilences and famines (Luke 21:10, 11). Now He added: And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations. Of all these events we have seen many already fulfilled, and with fear and trembling we look for the near fulfilment of the rest. As for the nations which are to rise up one against the other, and the persecutions which are to be endured on earth, what we learn from thehistory of our own times, and what we have seen with our own eyes, makes a far deeper impression than what we read even in Holy Scripture. With regard to the earthquakes converting numberless cities into lamentable heaps of ruins, the accounts of them are not unknown to you, and reports of the like events reach us still from various parts of the world. Epidemics also continue to cause us the greatest sorrow and anxiety; and though we have not seen the signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars, mentioned in Holy Scripture, we know, at least, that fiery weapons have appeared shining in the sky, and even blood, the foreboding of that blood which was to be shed in Italy by the invading barbarian hordes. As to the terrible roaring of the sea and of the waves, we have not yet heard it. However, we do not doubt that this also will happen; for, the greater part of the prophecies of our Lord being fulfilled, this one will also see its fulfilment, the past being a guarantee for the future.

II. Moreover, we say this, beloved brethren, to encourage you to unceasing watchfulness over yourselves, so that no false confidence may take possession of your souls, leaving you to languish in ignorance; but that, on the contrary, a true and wholesome fear may drive you on to do good, and strengthen you in the carrying out of good works. Take special notice of the following, added by our Saviour: Men shall wither away for fear and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved. What is meant by our heavenly Teacher when speaking of the powers of heaven, but the angels and archangels, the thrones, principalities and powers, that will appear on the day of vengeance of that severe Judge, Who will then demand from us with severity the homage and submission, which He now, as our Creator, although unseen, asks for in love as His due. Then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. Which means that the people will then see Him, whom in His meekness and humiliations they would neither listen to nor recognise, coming in power and majesty. In that day they will feel the more compelled to acknowledge His power, since in the present time they deny Him, and refuse to submit themselves to His yoke, to which He so patiently invites them.

III. As, however, these words of our Saviour are spoken to the lost, so are the following uttered for the comfort of the elect: When these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. Truth Itself teaches the chosen ones in these words, and seems to say to them: When you see the calamities which portend the end of the world increasing; when fear of that awful judgment-day takes possession of even the bravest hearts at the sight of the shaken powers of heaven, then lift up your heads, that is, rejoice with your whole heart, because the end of this world, so little loved by you, announces to you the wished-for freedom to be enjoyed by you hereafter. The head is often used in Holy Scripture for the soul, and in this way, by warning us to lift up our heads, it reminds us to rouse up our  souls to the thought of the heavenly home which is awaiting us. Those, therefore, who love God, are commanded to rejoice when they see the end of the world approaching, because, when this world, which they have not loved, is destroyed, they will find themselves in possession of Him, Who is the one true object of their love. We are assured that among these true believers, who have a real longing to see God, there is not one who will not be deeply moved by the fearful events accompanying the end of the world. For we know from Holy Scripture that Whosoever will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God. (James 4:4.) Therefore, to show no pleasure at the approach of the end of the world is as much as to declare that we love this world, and that we are the enemies of  God. This wicked clinging to the world must be far removed from the hearts of good Christians, and of those who by faith are convinced that there is another life, and by their  good works deserve that life. Let those weep over the destruction of the world, whose hearts are given to it, and whose hopes are fixed upon it, and who, farfrom seeking this new life, refuse to believe that there will be another life. As for us who believe in this heavenly home and in its eternal bliss prepared for us, let us hasten to reach them. We should wish to attain this home as soon as possible, and endeavour to find the shortest way thither. For, are we not surrounded in this world by a great many misfortunes? Do we not experience many troubles and calamities? What, indeed, is this mortal life but a painful way? Consider, beloved brethren, what folly it would be in a man walking along a toilsome and difficult road until overcome with fatigue, and yet not wishing to see the end of it! Moreover, our Saviour teaches us by His wise similitude that this world does not deserve our affection, but that, on the contrary, we should despise it. He says: See the fig-tree and all the trees. When they now shoot forth their fruit, yon know that summer is nigh. So yon also, whenyou shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Is it not as though He said: In the same way that you conclude by the trees bearing fruit that summer is near, so by the downfall of the world you will know that the kingdom of God is not far off? These words show us plainly enough that the fall and destruction of this world are its real fruits, since its rise and increase are closely connected with its fall, and since it brings forth those things only which are destined to perish. If, on the contrary, we consider the kingdom of God, we are aware that we may in all truth compare it with the summer, when all the clouds of our afflictions will be dispersed and be followed by happy days, lighted up by a never disappearing sun of bliss.

IV. And that we should never doubt these truths, our Lord confirms them with an oath, saying: Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away. Among all corporeal things and beings nothing is more durable than heaven and earth; in the same way nothing disappears more quickly than the word. Before the word is expressed it exists, and hardly is it said than it has disappeared; for the word cannot attain its perfection without at the same instant losing its existence. Now heaven and earth shall pass away, says the oracle of eternal truth, Int My words shall not pass away. It is as if our Saviour said: Learn ye, that everything among you, that seems to be durable, has not been made to last for ever or to continue without any change; whereas what seems to pass away quickly, is firmly and for ever established. For even the words I speak, and which fly away, contain in themselves irrevocable utterances.

V. Now, beloved brethren, to return to what you have heard about this world being filled with continual daily increasing evils, consider what remains of the immense nation that has sustained the calamities of which I am speaking. Meanwhile, the troubles have not yet left us; we are still oppressed by lamentable and unforeseen calamities, and we are grieved and afflicted by new losses. Strip, therefore, your hearts from the love of this world which you enjoy so little ; and for this purpose take to heart the precept of the Apostle: Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15). What we have experienced these last three days is not unknown to you; how suddenly raging storms have rooted out the largest and strongest trees, have pulled down houses and destroyed churches! Many of the inhabitants, who at the end of the day quietly and in good health projected new plans for the morrow, were taken away by a sudden death during the night, and buried under the ruins of their dwellings.

VI. I beseech you, beloved brethren, be careful! If the invisible Judge is letting loose the stormy winds in order to produce these terrible effects; if He only needs to move the clouds of heaven and thus to shake the whole earth, and to overthrow and ruin the strongest buildings; what can we expect from this Judge when in His wrath He comes to take revenge and to punish sinners? If a mere cloud raised by Him against us is sufficient to strike us down, how shall we be able to resist His almighty power? St. Paul, thinking of the infinite power of the Judge appearing on this awful day, exclaims: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). The Royal Prophet expresses himself with the same force, when in his psalm he says: The God of gods, the Lord hath spoken; and He hath called the earth. From the rising of the sun, to the going down thereof, God shall come manifestly: our God shall come, and shall not keep silence. A fire shall burn before Him; and a mighty tempest shall be round about Him. He shall call heaven from above, and the earth, to judge His people. Gather ye together His saints to Him; and the heavens shall declare His justice, for God is Judge. Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify to thee; I am God thy God. Understand these things you that forget God; lest He snatch you away, and there be none to deliver you (Ps. xlix.). It is not without a special reason that this severe judgment will be accompanied by fire and storms; for it will weigh, as in scales, men who were devoured by the natural fire. Therefore, beloved brethren, keep this great day before your mind s eye, and whatever seems difficult and troublesome, will soon become light and easy, when you compare the one with the other. The prophet Sophonias says to us: The great day of the Lord is near, it is near and exceeding swift; the voice of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man shall there meet with tribulation. That day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery, a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds; a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high bulwarks (Zeph 1:14-16). And the Lord God has spoken of this day through His prophet: Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven, and the earth, and the sea,and the dry land (Hag 2:7). But, as we have already remarked, if the earth could not resist the force of the wind set in motion, how will man be able to resist the motions of the heavens? For what are all these terrible events causing us so much uneasiness and fear, but heralds announcing to us the wrath of God following them? From all this we conclude that between the evils oppressing us now, and those which will come in the latter days, there is as great a difference as between the power of the highest Judge and the power announcing Him. Therefore, beloved brethren, think of the last day with renewed attention; amend your lives; steadfastly resist all temptations leading you to sin, and wipe out with your tears the sins you have committed. Then the more you have endeavoured, through salutary fear, to anticipate the severity of His judgments, the greater will be the confidence with which you will witness the coming of this Immortal King.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 2:23-3:6

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 14, 2018

Ver 23. And it came to pass, that He went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and His disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.24. And the Pharisees said unto Him, “Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?”25. And He said unto them, “Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?26. How he went into the house of God, in the days of Abiathar the High Priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?”27. And He said unto them, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:28. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The disciples of Christ, freed from the figure, and united to the truth, do not keep the figurative feast of the sabbath.  Wherefore it is said, “And it came to pass, that He went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and His disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.”

Bede, in Marc., 1, 13: We read also in the following part, that they who came and went away were many, and that they had not time enough to take their food, wherefore, according to man’s nature, they were hungry.

Chrys., see Hom. in Matt., 39: But being hungry, they ate simple food, not for pleasure, but on account of the necessity of nature. The Pharisees however, serving the figure and the shadow, accused the disciples of doing wrong.  Wherefore there follows, “But the Pharisees said unto Him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful.”

Augustine, de Op. Monach., 23: For it was a precept in Israel, delivered by a written law, that no one should detain a thief found in his fields, unless he tried to take something away with him. For the man who had touched nothing else but what he had eaten they were commanded to allow to go away free and unpunished. Wherefore the Jews accused our Lord’s disciples, who were plucking the ears of corn, of breaking the sabbath, rather than of theft.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But our Lord brings forward David, to whom it once happened to eat though it was forbidden by the law, when he touched the Priest’s food, that by his example, He might do away with their accusation of the disciples.   For there follows, “Have ye never read, &c.”

Theophylact: For David, when flying from the face of Saul [1 Sam 21] went to the Chief Priest, and ate the shew-bread, and took away the sword of Goliath, which things had been offered to the Lord. But a question has been raised how the Evangelist called Abiathar at this time High Priest, when the Book of Kings calls him Abimelech.

Bede: There is, however, no discrepancy, for both were there, when David came to ask for bread, and received it: that is to say, Abimelech, the High Priest, and Abiathar his son; but Abimelech having been slain by Saul, Abiathar fled to David, and became the companion of all his exile afterwards. When he came to the throne, he himself also received the rank of High Priest, and the son became of much greater excellence than the father, and therefore was worthy to be mentioned as the High Priest,  even during his father’s life-time.  It goes on: “And He said to them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”

For greater is the care to be taken of the health and life of a man, than the keeping of the sabbath. Therefore the sabbath was ordered to be observed in such a way, that, if there were a neccesity, he should not be guilty, who broke the sabbath-day; therefore it was not forbidden to circumcise on the sabbath, because that was a necessary work. And the Maccabees, when necessity pressed on them, fought on the sabbath-day.

Wherefore, His disciples being hungry, what was not allowed in the law became lawful through their necessity of hunger; as now, if a sick man break a fast, he is not held guilty in any way.  It goes on: “Therefore the Son of man is Lord, &c.” As if He said, David the king is to be excused for feeding on the food of the Priests, how much more the Son of man, the true King and Priest, and Lord of the sabbath, is free from fault, for pulling ears of corn on the sabbath-day.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He calls himself properly, Lord of the sabbath, and Son of man, since being the Son of God, He deigned to be called Son of man, for the sake of men. Now the law has no authority over the Lawgiver and Lord, for more is allowed the king, than is appointed by the law. The law is given to the weak indeed, but not to the perfect and to those who work above what the law enjoins.

Bede: But in a mystical sense the disciples pass through the corn fields, when the holy doctors look with the care of a pious solicitude upon those whom they have initiated in the faith, and who, it is implied, are hungering for the best of all things, the salvation of men.

But to pluck the ears of corn means to snatch men away from the eager desire of earthly things. And to rub with the hands is by example of virtue to put from the purity of their minds the concupiscence of the flesh, as men do husks. To eat the grains is when a man, cleansed from the filth of vice by the mouths of preachers, is incorporated amongst the members of the Church.

Again, fitly are the disciples related to have done this, walking before the face of the Lord, for it is necessary that the discourse of the doctor should come first, although the grace of visitation from on high, following it, must enlighten the heart of the hearer. As well, on the sabbath-day, for the doctors themselves in [p. 53] preaching labour for the hope of future rest, and teach their hearers to toil over their tasks for the sake of eternal repose.

Theophylact: Or else, because when they have rest from their passions, then are they made doctors to lead others to virtue, plucking away from them earthly things.

Bede: Again, they walk through the corn fields with the Lord, who rejoice in meditating upon His sacred words. They hunger, when they desire to find in them the bread of life; and they hunger on sabbath days, as soon as their minds are in a soothing rest, and they rejoice in freedom from troubled thoughts; they pluck the ears of corn, and by rubbing, cleanse them, till they come to what is fit to eat, when by meditation they take to themselves the witness of the Scriptures, to which they arrive by reading, and discuss them continually, until they find in them the marrow of love; this refreshment of the mind is truly unpleasing to fools, but is approved by the Lord.

Ver 1. And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.2. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse Him.3. And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”4. And He saith unto them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” But they held their peace.5. And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, “Stretch forth thine hand.” And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

Theophylact: After confounding the Jews, who had blamed His disciples, for pulling the ears of corn on the sabbath day, by the example of David, the Lord now further bringing them to the truth, works a miracle on the sabbath; shewing that, if it is a pious deed to work miracles on the sabbath for the health of men, it is not wrong to do on the sabbath thing necessary for the body.

He says therefore, “And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the sabbath-day; that they might accuse Him.”

Bede, in Marc., 1, 14: For, since He had defended the breaking of the sabbath, which they objected to His disciples, by an approved example, now they wish, by watching Him, to  calumniate Himself, that they might accuse Him of a transgression, if He cured on the sabbath, of cruelty or of folly, if He refused.  It goes on: “And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand in the midst.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc., see Chrys, Hom. in Matt., 40: He placed him in the midst, that they might be frightened at the sight, and on seeing Him compassionate him, and lay aside their malice.

Bede: And anticipating the calumny of the Jews, which they had prepared for Him, He accused them of violating the precepts of the law, by a wrong interpretation.  Wherefore there follows: “And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath-day, or to do evil?”

And this He asks, because they thought that on the sabbath they were to rest even from good works, whilst the law commands to abstain from bad, saying, “Ye shall do no servile work therein;” [Lev 23:7] that is, sin: for “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” [John 8:34]

What He first says, “to do good on the sabbath-day or to do evil,” is the same as what He afterwards adds, “to save a life or to lose it;” that is, to cure a man or not. Not that God, Who is in the highest degree good, can be the author of perdition to us, but that His not saving is in the language of Scripture to destroy.

but if it be asked, wherefore the Lord, being about to cure the body, asked about the saving of the soul, let him understand either that in the common way of Scripture the soul is put for the man; as it is said, “All the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob;” [Ex 1:5] or because He did those miracles for the saving of a soul, or because the healing itself of the hand signified the saving of the soul.

Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 35: But some one may wonder how Matthew could have said, that they themselves asked the Lord, if it was lawful to heal on the sabbath-day; when Mark rather relates that they were asked by our Lord, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath-day, or to do evil?”

Therefore we must understand that they first asked the Lord, if it was lawful to heal on the sabbath-day, then that understanding their thoughts, and that they were seeking an opportunity to accuse Him, He placed in the middle him whom He was about to cure, and put those questions, which Mark and Luke relate. We must then suppose, that when they were silent, He propounded the parable of the sheep, and concluded, that it was lawful to do good on the sabbath-day.  It goes on: “But they were silent.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: For they knew that He would certainly cure him.  It goes on: “And looking round about upon them with anger.”

His looking round upon them in anger, and being saddened at the blindness of their hearts, is fitting for His humanity, which He deigned to take upon Himself for us. He connects the working of the miracle with a word, which proves that the man is cured by His voice alone.

It follow therefore, “And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” Answering by all these things for His disciples, and at the same time shewing that His life is above the law.

Bede: But mystically, the man with a withered hand shews the human race, dried up as to its fruitfulness in good works, but now cured by the mercy of the Lord; the hand of man, which in our first parent had been dried up when he plucked the fruit of the forbidden tree, through the grace of the Redeemer, Who stretched His guiltless hands on the tree of the cross, has been restored to health by the juices of good works.

Well too was it in the synagogue that the hand was withered; for where the gift of knowledge is greater, there also the danger of inexcusable guilt is greater.

Pseudo-Jerome: Or else it means the avaricious, who, being able to give had rather receive, and love robbery rather than making gifts. And they are commanded to stretch forth their hands, that is, “let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hand the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” [Eph 4:28]

Theophylact: Or, he had his right hand withered, who does not the works which belong to the right side; for from the time that our hand is employed in forbidden deeds, from that time it is withered to the working of good. But it will be restored whenever it stands firm in virtue; wherefore Christ saith, “Arise,” that is, from sin, “and stand in the midst;” that thus it may stretch itself forth neither too little nor too much.

Ver 6. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him

Bede, in Marc., 1, 15: The Pharisees, thinking it a crime that at the word of the Lord the hand which was diseased was restored to a sound state, agreed to make a pretext of the words spoken by our Saviour.  Wherefore it is said, “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.”

As if every one amongst them did not greater things on the sabbath day, carrying food, reaching forth a cup, and whatever else is necessary for meals. Neither could He, Who said and it was done, be convicted of toiling on the sabbath day.

Theophylact: But the soldiers of Herod the king are called Herodians, because a certain new heresy had sprung up, which asserted that Herod was the Christ. For the prophecy of Jacob intimated that when the princes of Judah failed then Christ should come; because therefore in the time of Herod none of the Jewish princes remained, and he, an alien, was the sole ruler, some thought that he was the Christ, and set on foot this heresy. These, therefore, were with the Pharisees trying to kill Christ.

Bede: Or else he calls Herodians the servants of Herod the Tetrarch, who on account of the hatred which their lord had for John, pursued with treachery and hate the Saviour also, Whom John preached.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 21:28-32

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 7, 2018

28 But what think you? A certain man had two sons: and coming to the first, he said: Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
29 And he answering, said: I will not. But afterwards, being moved with repentance, he went.
30 And coming to the other, he said in like manner. And he answering said: I go, Sir. And he went not.
31 Which of the two did the father’s will? They say to him: The first. Jesus saith to them: Amen I say to you that the publicans and the harlots shall go into the kingdom of God before you.
32 For John came to you in the way of justice: and you did not believe him. But the publicans and the harlots believed him: but you, seeing it, did not even afterwards repent, that you might believe him.

Affecting ignorance of what they knew well, as to whether John’s baptism was from Heaven or not, the Pharisees would not answer our Redeemer’s question. He, then, before dismissing the allusion to John the Baptist, takes occasion, from their evasive answer, to propose a parable, the application of which was quite evident, and while He supposed the Divine mission of John, clearly proved them guilty of incredulity, the imputation of which they were anxious to avoid. He wishes to humble their pride, who were inflated with a sense of their own dignity, and the affectation of superior knowledge, and false science. This He does in a most telling way, by proposing a case, or a question, in the form of a parable, the answer to which, as well as its application to themselves, was quite clear. Out of their own mouth, He condemns them, and shows that “the publicans and harlots shall precede them in the kingdom of God.” The parable, in its literal meaning, is quite clear. Its application is equally so. The man in question refers to Almighty God, the common Father of all. The two sons refer to the Pharisees, on the one hand, and the public sinners among the Jews, as is clear from verse 31, “the publicans and harlots,” &c. The son who refused to obey his father’s injunctions, in the first instance, but afterwards obeyed in act, refers to the “publicans and harlots,” the public sinners of either sex among the Jews, who, by their sins, disobeyed God, refused to observe His law, rejected His call to cultivate, by penance, the spiritual vineyard of their souls, but afterwards were converted to penance, and embraced God’s holy law. The son who promised obedience, in the first instance, but afterwards disobeyed, in act, represented the Pharisees, who had always on their lips the law of God, made an external profession of piety, but were destitute of its spirit, failed in its practices, disobeyed God’s law preached to them by John the Baptist, despised his baptism, and refused to believe in Christ, to whom he bore testimony.

(verse 31) “Jesus said to them, Amen I say to you,” &c. Without dwelling on the meaning of the parable, which clearly applied to the Pharisees, our Redeemer at once announced the conclusion to be derived from their own admission. The man who did, in act, what His Father commanded, obeyed; while the other, who promised obedience in word, but did not carry it out in act, disobeyed. Hence, “the publicans and harlots”—the public sinners of either sex among the Jews—“shall go into the kingdom of God before you,” that is, shall be admitted into the enjoyment of God’s bliss, before you, who, having refused the way of penance, preached by John the Baptist, shall be altogether excluded from that kingdom of bliss, to which penance conducts. The same is conveyed in the parable of the two sons, in the Gospel of St. Luke (15:11), where the younger son represented the public sinners. The same are represented here by the first-born, because such sinners, on doing penance, are first before God, and precede those who seem to themselves just. Thus, “the last shall be first,” &c. The Greek for, “Go before you,” is, “shall precede you,” as if conveying, that they go before them in the road to heaven, by penance and faith, and shall be admitted there before them. For, they shall be utterly excluded.

The parable may also, in a secondary sense, regard the Gentile and Jewish peoples; the former, represented by those among the Jews, who were converted from their sins, and did not promise to obey God’s word, but did so, in act; the latter, by those who remained obstinate, after having promised to Moses (Exod. 19:8), “all whatsoever, the Lord shall speak to us, we shall do,” still continued obstinate in their incredulity, and resistance to God’s law. Theirs was only lip service, without obedience in act, depending solely on the justice of the law, and not on faith. Hence, they arrived not at the law of justice, but stumbled against the rock of offence (Rom. 9:30), &c.

(Verse 32) “John came to you,” in preference to all other peoples, “in the way of justice,” exhibiting true justice, by a holy, irreproachable life, exemplifying in his conduct, the lessons of penance and humility which he taught, thus showing himself what all, except the haughty Pharisees, believed him to be, viz., a Prophet, truly sent from God.

You did not believe him,” either by obeying the precepts of penance, which he announced, or by receiving the Messiah, to whom he bore testimony.

But the publicans and harlots believed him,” which adds to the condemnation of the Pharisees, who, not only were unmoved by the holy life and teaching of John, but still remained obstinate, and refused to enter on a life of penance, even after the example of these sinful men and women was placed before them, to stimulate them.

You … did not even afterwards repent,” that is, you did not follow their example, whom you should precede, in doing penance, “that”—under the influence of holy penance—“you might believe him,” and thus follow his precepts, and admit his testimony regarding the Son of God.

Our Redeemer censures two things in the Pharisees—their incredulity in regard to the testimony of John, and their contumacious obstinacy in that incredulity, even after the example of the greatest sinners, who became converted, had been placed before them.

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