The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

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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 Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 21:28-32

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 7, 2018

Final Encounter with the Pharisees and their Rejection, 21:23–23:39

In this section we have first the history preparatory to the last contest with the scribes and Pharisees, 21:23–22:14; secondly, the formal contest, 21:15–46; thirdly, the formal rejection of the scribes and Pharisees, 13:1–39.

1. Events preparatory to the last contest [21:23–22:14] are first the Pharisees’ question after our Lord’s authority, 21:23–27; secondly, the parable of the two sons, 21:28–32; thirdly, the parable of the wicked husbandmen, 21:33–46; fourthly, the parable of the marriage feast, 22:1–14. Throughout this part the position of Jesus in regard to the scribes and Pharisees grows clearer.

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.

Parable of two sons. In the first case the evangelist marks the contrast between the kind address, “son,” of the father, and the rude answer, “I will not,” of the son. The “sir” of the second son illustrates his hypocritical reverence for his father. Before making the application of the parable, Jesus tasks the Pharisees themselves to give their judgment concerning the sons. Instead of “the first” some codd. read “the last”; if this reading be adhered to, in spite of its being wrong, the Pharisees must be said to have intentionally given the wrong answer, in order to frustrate the effect of the parable. The two sons do not signify the Pharisees who despised the preaching of John and were converted later on, and the publicans and sinners who first listened to the Baptist but did not enter the kingdom [cf. Hil.]; nor do they represent the Gentiles who first refused to obey the natural law, but then entered the kingdom, and the Jews who first promised obedience [Ex. 19:6], and then refused to enter the kingdom [Orig. Chrys. Jer. Theoph. Euth. Bed. Rab. op. imp. etc.]; but they represent the publicans and sinners, on the one hand, and the scribes and Pharisees, on the other [Theoph. in cat. Br. Caj. Jans. Mald. Lap. Lam. Arn. Bisp. Schegg, Schanz, Fil. Knab. etc.]. That this is the true meaning is clear from the words of Jesus, “The publicans and the harlots shall go into the kingdom before you”; a converted publican was among the twelve, and Lk. 7:50 tells of the true conversion of a harlot. The manner in which the sinners precede the Pharisees is described by the words: “For John came to you in the way of justice,” not merely living according to the just prescriptions of the Mosaic law, and according to the highest principles of the inner life [cf. Chrys. Theoph. Euth. Mald.; 2 Pet. 2:21], but also teaching you the way of justice [cf. Lk. 3:12 ff.] and of inward sanctity [cf. Mt. 3:8]; “and you did not believe him,” though his teaching was confirmed by his example, while the “publicans and the harlots believed him.” By way of moral application, the meaning of this parable may be extended to Gentiles and Jews; to priests and laymen; to religious and seculars [cf. Orig. Theoph. Jans. Lap. Salm. tom. vii. tract. 35]. The words “shall go into the kingdom of God before you” show that there is hope left for the persons Jesus addresses [cf. Chrys. Theoph.], and admit even that the Jews will enter after the fulness of the Gentiles, but they do not expressly state this doctrine [cf. Orig. Alb.].

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 6:39-45

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 23, 2018

39. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?
40. The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.
41. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
42. Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. The Lord added to what had gone before a very necessary parable, as it is said, And he spake a parable to them, for His disciples were the future teachers of the world, and it therefore became them to know the way of a virtuous life, having their minds illuminated as it were by a divine brightness, that they should not be blind leaders of the blind. And then he adds, Can the blind lead the blind? But if any should chance to attain unto an equal degree of virtue with their teachers, let them stand in the measure of their teachers, and follow their footsteps. Hence it follows, The disciple is not above his master. Hence also Paul says, Be ye also followers of me, as I am of Christ (1 Cor. 1:11.). Since Christ therefore judged not, why judgest thou? for He came not to judge the world, but to shew mercy.

THEOPHYLACT. Or else, If thou judgest another, and in the very same way sinnest thyself, art not thou like to the blind leading the blind? For how canst thou lead him to good when thou also thyself committest sin? For the disciple is not above his master. If therefore thou sinnest, who thinkest thyself a master and guide, where will he be who is taught and led by thee? For he will be the perfect disciple who is as his master.

BEDE. Or the sense of this sentence depends upon the former, in which we are enjoined to give alms, and forgive injuries. If, says He, anger has blinded thee against the violent, and avarice against the grasping, how canst thou with thy corrupt heart cure his corruption? If even thy Master Christ, who as God might revenge His injuries, chose rather by patience to render His persecutors more merciful, it is surely binding on His disciples, who are but men, to follow the same rule of perfection.

AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. l. ii. q. 9.) Or, He has added the words, Can the blind, lead the blind, in order that they might not expect to receive from the Levites that measure of which He says, They shall give into thy bosom, because they gave tithes to them. And these He calls blind, because they received not the Gospel, that the people might the rather now begin to hope for that reward through the disciples of the Lord, whom wishing to point out as His imitators, He added, The disciple is not above his master.

THEOPHYLACT. But the Lord introduces another parable taken from the same figure, as follows, But why seest thou the mote (that is, the slight fault) which is in thy brother’s eye, but the beam which is in thine own eye (that is, thy great sin) thou regardest not?

BEDE. Now this has reference to the previous parable, in which He forewarned them that the blind cannot be led by the blind, that is, the sinner corrected by the sinner. Hence it is said, Or, how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother let me cast out the mote that is in thine eye, if thou seest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. As if He said, How can he who is guilty of grievous sins, (which He calls the beam,) condemn him who has sinned only slightly, or even in some cases not at all? For this the mote signifies.

THEOPHYLACT. But these words are applicable to all, and especially to teachers, who while they punish the least sins of those who are put under them, leave their own unpunished. Wherefore the Lord calls them hypocrites, because to this end judge they the sins of others, that they themselves might seem just. Hence it follows, Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye, &c.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. That is to say, first shew thyself clean from great sins, and then afterwards shalt thou give counsel to thy neighbour, who is guilty only of slight sins.

BASIL. (Hom. 9, in Hexameron.) In truth, self knowledge seems the most important of all. For not only the eye, looking at outward things, fails to exercise its sight upon itself, but our understanding also, though very quick in apprehending the sin of another, is slow to perceive its own defects.

Ver 43. For a good tree brings not forth corrupt fruit; neither does a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
44. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
45. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

THEOPHYL; Our Lord continues the words which He had begun against the hypocrites, saying, For a good tree brings not forth corrupt fruit; i.e. as if He says, If you would have a true and unfeigned righteousness, what you set forth in words make up also in works, for the hypocrite though he pretends to be good is not good, who does evil works; and the innocent though he be blamed, is not therefore evil, who does good works.

TITUS BOS. But take not these words to thyself as an encouragement to idleness, for the tree is moved conformably to its nature but you have the exercise of free will; and every barren tree has been ordained for some good, but you were created to the good work of virtue.

ISIDORE PELEUS; He does not then exclude repentance, but a continuance in evil, which as long as it is evil cannot bring forth good fruit, but being converted to virtue, will yield abundance. But what nature is to the tree, our affections are to us. If then a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit, how shall a corrupt heart?

CHRYS. But although the fruit is caused by the tree, yet, it brings to us the knowledge of the tree, because the distinctive nature of the tree is made evident by the fruit, as it follows, For every tree is know by its fruit.

CYRIL; Each man’s life also will be a criterion of his character. For not by extrinsic ornaments and pretended humility is the beauty of true happiness discovered, but by those things which a man does; of which he gives an illustration, adding, For of thorns men do not gather figs.

AMBROSE; On the thorns of this world the fig cannot be found, which as being better in its second fruit, is well fitted to be a similitude of the resurrection. Either because, as you read, The fig trees have put forth their green figs, that is, the unripe and worthless fruit came first in the Synagogue. Or because our life is imperfect in the flesh, perfect in the resurrection, and therefore we ought to cast far from us worldly cares, which eat into the mind and scorch up the soul, that by diligent culture we may obtain the perfect fruits. This therefore has reference to the world and the resurrection, the next to the soul and the body, as it follows, Nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. Either because no one living in sin obtains fruit to his soul, which like the grape nearest the ground is rotten, on the higher branches becomes ripe. Or because no one can escape the condemnations of the flesh, but he whom Christ has redeemed, Who as a grape hung on the tree.

THEOPHYL; Or, I think the thorns and bramble are the cares of the world and the prickings of sin, but the figs and the grapes are the sweetness of a new life and the warmth of love, but the fig is not gathered from the thorns nor the grape from the bramble, because the mind still debased by the habits of the old man may pretend to, but cannot bring forth the fruits of the new man. But we must know, that as the fruitful palm tree is enclosed and supported by a hedge, and the thorn bearing fruit not its own, preserves it for the use of man, so the words and acts of the wicked wherein they serve the good are not done by the wicked themselves, but by the wisdom of God working upon them.

CYRIL; But having shown that the good and the bad man may be discerned by their works as a tree by its fruits, he now sets forth the same thing by another figure, saying, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth that which is evil.

THEOPHYL; The treasure of the heart is the same as the root of the tree. He therefore who has in his heart the treasure of patience and perfect love, brings forth the best fruits, loving his enemy, and doing the other things which have been taught above. But he who keeps a bad treasure in his heart does the contrary to this.

BASIL; The quality of the words shows the heart from which they proceed, plainly manifesting the inclination of our thoughts. Hence it follows, For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

CHRYS. For it is a natural consequence when wickedness abounds within, that wicked words are breathed as far as the mouth; and therefore when you hear of a man uttering abominable things, do not suppose that there lies only so much wickedness in him as is expressed in his words, but believe the fountain to be more copious than the stream.

THEOPHYL; By the speaking of the mouth the Lord signifies all things, which by word, or deed, or thought, we bring forth from the heart. For it is the manner of the Scripture to put words for deeds.

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

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 27, 2018

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

HOMILY IX

2 Cor. 4:8-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOMILY X

2 Cor. 5:1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who also gave the earnest of the Spirit.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 92

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2018

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

ARGUEMENT

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

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

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

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

COMMENTARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Saturday: Lauds.

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

Ambrosian. Thursday of Second Week: I. Nocturn.

Parisian. Monday: Lauds.

Lyons. Saturday: Lauds.

Quignon. Thursday: Terce.

Eastern Church. Mesorion of Prime.

ANTIPHONS

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

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

COLLECTS

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 19:24b-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2018

Ver 24b. These things therefore the soldiers did.25. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.26. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he says to his mother, Woman, behold your son!27. Then says he to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

THEOPHYL. While the soldiers were doing their cruel work, He was thinking anxiously of His mother: These things therefore the soldiers did.  Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

AMBROSE. Mary the mother of our Lord stood before the cross of her Son. None of the Evangelists hath told me this except John. The others have related how that at our Lord’s Passion the earth quaked, the heaven was overspread with darkness, the sun fled, the thief was taken into paradise after confession. John hath told us, what the others have not, how that from the cross whereon He hung, He called to His mother. He thought it a greater thing to show Him victorious over punishment, fulfilling the offices of piety to His mother, than giving the kingdom of heaven and eternal life to the thief. For if it was religious to give life to the thief, a much richer work of piety it is for a son to honor his mother with such affection. Behold, He says, your son; behold your mother. Christ made His Testament from the cross, and divided the offices of piety between the Mother and the disciples. Our Lord made not only a public, but also a domestic Testament. And this His Testament John sealed a witness worthy of such a Testator. A good testament it was, not of money, but of eternal life, which was not written with ink, but with tile spirit of the living God: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Mary, as became the mother of our Lord, stood before the cross, when the Apostles fled and With pitiful eyes beheld the wounds of her Son. For she looked not on the death of the Hostage, but on the salvation of the world; end perhaps knowing that her Son’s death would bring this salvation, she who had been the habitation of the King, thought that by her death she might add to that universal gift.

But Jesus did not need any help for saving the v world, as you read in the Psalm, I have been even as a man with no help, free among the dead. He received indeed the affection of a parent, but He did not seek another’s help. Imitate her, you holy matrons, who, as towards here only most beloved Son, has set you an example of such virtue: for you have not sweeter sons, nor did the Virgin seek consolation in again becoming a mother.

JEROME. The Mary which in Mark and Matthew is called the mother of James and Joses was the wife of Alpheus, and sister of Mary the mother of our Lord: which Mary John here designates of Cleophas, either from her father, or family, or for some other reason. She need not be thought a different person, because she is called in one place Mary the mother of James the less, and here Mary of Cleophas, for it is customary in Scripture to give different names to the same person.

CHRYS. Observe how the weaker sex is the stronger; standing by the cross when the disciples fly.

AUG. If Matthew and Mark had not mentioned by name Mary Magdalene, we should have thought that there were two parties, one of which stood far off, and the other near. But how must we account for the same Mary Magdalene and the other women standing afar off, as Matthew and Mark say, and being near the cross, as John says? By supposing that they were within such a distance as to be within sight of our Lord, and yet sufficiently far off to be out of the way of the crowd and Centurion, and soldiers who were immediately about Him. Or, we e may suppose that after our Lord had commended His mother to the disciple, they retired to be out of the way of the crowd, and saw what took place afterwards at a distance: so that those Evangelists who do not mention them till after our Lord’s death, describe them as standing afar off. That some women are mentioned by all alike, others not, makes no matter.

CHRYS. Though there were other women by, He makes no mention of any of them, but only of His mother, to show us that v, e should specially honor our mothers. Our parents indeed, if they actually oppose the truth, are not even to be known: but otherwise we should pay them all attention, and honor them above all the world beside: When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, He says to His mother, Woman, behold your son!

BEDE. By the disciple whom Jesus loved, the Evangelist means himself; not that the others were not loved, but he was loved more intimately on account of his estate of chastity; for a Virgin our Lord called him, and a Virgin he ever remained.

CHRYS. Heavens! what honor does He pay to the disciple; who however conceals his name from modesty. For had he wished to boast, he would have added the reason why he was loved, for there must have been something great and wonderful to have caused that love. This is all He says to John; He does not console his grief, for this was a time for giving consolation. Yet was it no small one to be honored with such a charge, to have the mother of our Lord, in her affliction, committed to his care by Himself on His departure: Then says He to the disciple, Behold your mother!

AUG. This truly is that hour of the which Jesus, when about to change the water into wine, said, Mother, what have I to do with you? Mine hour is not yet come. Then, about to act divinely, He repelled the mother of His humanity, of His infirmity, as if He knew her not: now, suffering humanly, He commends with human affection her of whom He was made man. Here is a moral lesson. The good Teacher shows us by His example how that pious sons should take care of their parents. The cross of the sufferer, is the chair of the Master.

CHRYS. The shameless doctrine of Marcion is refuted here. For if our Lord were not born according to the flesh, and had not a mother, why did He make such provision for her? Observe how imperturbable He is during His crucifixion, talking to the disciple of His mother, fulfilling prophecies, airing good hope to the thief; whereas before His crucifixion, He seemed in fear. The weakness of His nature was strewn there, the exceeding greatness of His power here. He teaches us too herein, not to turn back, because we may feel disturbed at the difficulties before us for when we are once actually under the trial, all will be; light and easy for us.

AUG. He does this to provide as it were another son for His mother in his place; And from that hour that disciple took her to his own. To his own what? Was not John one of those who said, Lo, we have left all, and followed You? He took her then to his own, i. e not to his farm, for he had none, but to his care, for of this he was master.

BEDE. Another reading is, Accepy eam disciplus in suam, his own mother some understand, but to his own care seems better.

Ver 28. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst.29. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.30. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

AUG. He who appeared man, suffered all these things, He who was God, ordered them: After this Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished; i.e. knowing the prophecy in the Psalms, And when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink, said, I thirst: As if to say, you have not done all give me yourselves: for the Jews were themselves vinegar having degenerated from the wine of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.

Now there was a vessel full of vinegar: they had drunk from the wickedness of the world, as from a full vessel, and their heart was deceitful, as it were a sponge full of caves and crooked hiding places: And they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

CHRYS. They were not softened at all by what they saw, but were the more enraged, and gave Him the cup to drink, as they did to criminals, i.e. with a hyssop.

AUG. The hyssop around which they put the sponge full of vinegar, being a mean herb, taken to purge the breast, represents the humility of Christ, which they hemmed in and thought they had circumvented. For we are made clean by Christ s humility. Nor let it perplex you that they were able to reach His mouth when He was such a height above the ground: for we read in the other Evangelists, what John omits to mention, that the sponge was put upon a reed.

THEOPHYL. Some say that the hyssop is put here for reed, its leaves being like a reed.  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished.

AUG. viz. what prophecy had foretold so long before.

BEDE. It may be asked here, why it is said, When Jesus had received the vinegar, when another Evangelists says, He would not drink. But this is easily settled. He did not receive the vinegar, to drink it, but fulfill the prophecy.

AUG. Then as there was nothing left Him to do before He died, it follows, And He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, only dying when He had nothing more to do, like Him who had to lay down His life, and to take it up again.

GREG. Ghost is put here for soul: for had the Evangelist meant any thing else by it, though the ghost departed, in the soul might still have remained.

CHRYS. He did not bow His head because He gave up the ghost, but He gave up the ghost because at that moment He bowed His head. Whereby the Evangelist intimates that He was Lord of all.

AUG. For whoever had such power to sleep when he wished, as our Lord had to die when He wished? What power must He have, for our good or evil, Who had such power dying?

THEOPHYL. Our Lord gave up His ghost to God the Father, showing that the souls of the saints do not remain in the tomb, but go into the hand of the Father of all while sinners are reserved – for the place of punishment, i.e. hell.

Ver  31. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath clay, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.32. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him,33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs:34. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water.35. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knows that he says true, that you might believe.36. For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.37. And again another Scripture says, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

CHRYS. The Jews who strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel after their audacious wickedness, reason scrupulously about the day: The Jews therefore because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath.

BEDE. Parasceue, i. e. preparation: the sixth day was so called because the children of Israel prepared twice the number of loaves on that day. For that Sabbath day was an high day, i. e. on account of the feast of the passover.  Besought Pilate that their legs might be broken.

AUG. Not in order to take away the legs, but to cause death, that they might be taken down from the cross, and the feast day not be defiled by the sight of such horrid torments.

THEOPHYL. For it was commanded in the Law that the sun should not set on the punishment of anyone; or they were unwilling to appear tormentors and homicides on a feast day.

CHRYS. How forcible is truth: their own devices it is that accomplish the fulfillment of prophecy: Then came the soldiers and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him.

But when they came to Jesus, an saw that He was dead already, they broke not His legs:  but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side.

THEOPHYL. To please the Jews, they pierce Christ, thus insulting even His lifeless body. But the insult issues in a miracle: for a miracle it is that blood should flow from a dead body.

AUG. The Evangelist has expressed himself cautiously; not struck, or wounded, but opened His side: whereby was opened the gate of life, from whence the sacraments of the Church flowed, without which we cannot enter into that life which is the true life: And forthwith came thereout blood and water. That blood was shed for the remission of sins, that water tempers the cup of salvation. This it was which was prefigured when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark, by which the animals that were not to perish by the deluge entered; which animals prefigured the Church. To shadow forth this, the woman was made out of the side of the sleeping man; for this second Adam bowed His head, and slept on the cross, that out of that which came therefrom, there might be formed a wife for Him. O death, by which the dead are quickened, what can be purer than that blood, what more salutary than that wound!

CHRYS. This being the source whence the holy mysteries are derived, when you approach the awful cup, approach it as if you were about to drink out of Christ’s side.

THEOPHYL. Shame then upon them who mix not water with the wine in the holy mysteries: they seem as if they believed not that the water flowed from the side. Had blood flowed only, a man might have said that there was some life left in the body, and that that was as why the blood flowed. But the water flowing is an irresistible miracle, and therefore the Evangelist adds, And he that saw it bare record.

CHRYS. As if to say, I did not hear it from others, but saw it with mine own eyes. And his record is true, he adds, not as if he had mentioned something so wonderful that his account would be suspected, but to stop the mouths of heretics, and in contemplation of the deep value of those mysteries which he announces.  And he knows that he says true, the you might believe.

AUG. He that saw it knows; let him that saw not believe his testimony. He gives testimonies from the Scriptures to each of these two things he relates. After, they brake not His legs, He adds, For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken, a commandment which applied to the sacrifice of the paschal lamb under the old law, which sacrifice foreshadowed our Lord’s. Also after, One of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, then follows another Scripture testimony; And again another Scripture said, They shall look on Him whom they pierced, a prophecy which implies that Christ will come in the very flesh in which He was crucified.

JEROME. This testimony is taken from Zacharias.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 3:19-35

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 17, 2018

19. —— And they went into an house.

20. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.

21. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.

22. And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

Bede. (ubi sup.) The Lord leads the Apostles, when they were elected, into a house, as if admonishing them, that after having received the Apostleship, they should retire to look on their own consciences. Wherefore it is said, And they came into a house, and the multitude came together again, so that they could not eat bread.

Pseudo-Chrysostom. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Ungrateful indeed were the multitudes of princes, whom their pride hinders from knowledge, but the grateful multitude of the people came to Jesus.

Bede. (ubi sup.) And blessed indeed the concourse of the crowd, flocking together, whose anxiety to obtain salvation was so great, that they left not the Author of salvation even an hour free to take food. But Him, whom a crowd of strangers loves to follow, his relations hold in little esteem: for it goes on: And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold upon him. For since they could not take in the depth of wisdom, which they heard, they thought that He was speaking in a senseless way, wherefore it continues, for they said, He is beside himself.

Theophylact. That is, He has a devil and is mad, and therefore they wished to lay hold upon Him, that they might shut Him up as one who had a devil. And even His friends wished to do this, that is, His relations, perchance His countrymen, or His brethren.1But it was a silly insanity in them, to conceive that the Worker of such great miracles of Divine Wisdom had become mad.

Bede. (ubi sup.) Now there is a great difference between those who do not understand the word of God from slowness of intellect, such as those, who are here spoken of, and those who purposely blaspheme, of whom it is added, And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem, &c. For what they could not deny, they endeavour to pervert by a malicious interpretation, as if they were not the works of God, but of a most unclean spirit, that is, of Beelzebub, who was the God of Ekron. For ‘Beel’ means Baal himself, and ‘zebub’ a fly; the meaning of Beelzebub therefore is the man of flies, on account of the filth of the blood which was offered, from which most unclean rite, they call him prince of the devils, adding, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

Pseudo-Jerome. But mystically, the house to which they came, is the early Church. The crowds which prevent their eating bread are sins and vices; for he who eateth unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. (1 Cor. 11:29)

Bede. (ubi sup.) The Scribes also coming down from Jerusalem blaspheme. But the multitude from Jerusalem, and from other regions of Judæa, or of the Gentiles, followed the Lord, because so it was to be at the time of His Passion, that a crowd of the people of the Jews should lead Him to Jerusalem with palms and praises, and the Gentiles should desire to see Him; but the Scribes and Pharisees should plot together for His death.

23. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?

24. And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

25. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

26. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.

27. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.

28. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:

29. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:

30. Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

Pseudo-Chrysostom. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) The blasphemy of the Scribes having been detailed, our Lord shews that what they said was impossible, confirming His proof by an example. Wherefore it says, And having called them together unto him, he said unto them in parables. How can Satan cast out Satan? As if He had said, A kingdom divided against itself by civil war must be desolated, which is exemplified both in a house and in a city. Wherefore also if Satan’s kingdom be divided against itself, so that Satan expels Satan from men, the desolation of the kingdom of the devils is at hand. But their kingdom consists in keeping men under their dominion. If therefore they are driven away from men, it amounts to nothing less than the dissolution of their kingdom. But if they still hold their power over men, it is manifest that the kingdom of evil is still standing, and Satan is not divided against himself.

Gloss. (non occ.) And because He has already shewn by an example that a devil cannot cast out a devil, He shews how he can be expelled, saying, No man can enter into a strong man’s house, &c.

Theophylact. The meaning of the example is this: The devil is the strong man; his goods are the men into whom he is received; unless therefore a man first conquers the devil, how can he deprive him of his goods, that is, of the men whom he has possessed? So also I who spoil his goods, that is, free men from suffering by his possession, first spoil the devils and vanquish them, and am their enemy. How then can ye say that I have Beelzebub, and that being the friend of the devils, I cast them out?

Bede. (in Marc. i. 17) The Lord has also bound the strong man, that is, the devil: which means, He has restrained him from seducing the elect, and entering into his house, the world; He has spoiled his house, and his goods, that is men, because He has snatched them from the snares of the devil, and has united them to His Church. Or, He has spoiled his house, because the four parts of the world, over which the old enemy had sway, He has distributed to the Apostles and their successors, that they may convert the people to the way of life. But the Lord shews that they committed a great sin, in crying out that that which they knew to be of God, was of the devil, when He subjoins, Verily I say unto you, All sins are forgiven, &c. All sins and blasphemies are not indeed remitted to all men, but to those who have gone through a repentance in this life sufficient for their sins; thus neither is Novatusm right, who denied that any pardon should be granted to penitents, who had lapsed in time of martyrdom; nor Origen, who asserts that after the general judgment, after the revolution of ages, all sinners will receive pardon for their sins, which error the following words of the Lord condemn, when He adds, But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, &c.

Pseudo-Chrysostom. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) He says indeed, that blasphemy concerning Himself was pardonable, because He then seemed to be a man despised and of the most lowly birth, but, that contumely against God has no remission. Now blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is against God, for the operation of the Holy Ghost is the kingdom of God; and for this reason, He says, that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost cannot be remitted. Instead, however, of what is here added, But will be in danger of eternal damnation, another Evangelist says, Neither in this world, nor in the world to come. By which is understood, the judgment which is according to the law, and that which is to come. For the law orders one who blasphemes God to be slain, and in the judgment of the second law he has no remission.nHowever, he who is baptized is taken out of this world; but the Jews were ignorant of the remission which takes place in baptism. He therefore who refers to the devil miracles, and the casting out of devils which belong to the Holy Ghost alone, has no room left him for remission of his blasphemy. Neither does it appear that such a blasphemy as this is remitted, since it is against the Holy Ghost. Wherefore he adds, explaining it, Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

Theophylact. We must however understand, that they will not obtain pardon unless they repent. But since it was at the flesh of Christ that they were offended, even though they did not repent, some excuse was allowed them, and they obtained some remission.

Pseudo-Jerome. Or this is meant; that he will not deserve to work out repentance, so as to be accepted, who, understanding who Christ was, declared that He was the prince of the devils.

Bede. (ubi sup.) Neither however are those, who do not believe the Holy Spirit to be God, guilty of an unpardonable blasphemy, because they were persuaded to do this by human ignorance, not by devilish malice.

Augustine. (Serm. 71, 12, 21) Or else impenitence itself is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which hath no remission. For either in his thought or by his tongue, he speaks a word against the Holy Ghost the forgiver of sins, who treasures up for himself an impenitent heart. But he subjoins, Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit, that he might shew that His reason for saying it, was their declaring that He cast out a devil by Beelzebub, not because there is a blasphemy, which cannot be remitted since even this might be remitted through a right repentance: but the cause why this sentence was put forth by the Lord, after mentioning the unclean spirit, (who as our Lord shews was divided against himself,) was, that the Holy Ghost even makes those whom He brings together undivided, by His remitting those sins, which divided them from Himself, which gift of remission is resisted by no one, but him who has the hardness of an impenitent heart. For in another place, the Jews said of the Lord, that He had a devil, (John 7:20.) without however His saying any thing there about the blasphemy against the Spirit; and the reason is, that they did not there cast in His teeth the unclean spirit, in such a way, that that spirit could by their own words be shewn to be divided against Himself, as Beelzebub was here shewn to be, by their saying, that it might be he who cast out devilso.

31. There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.

32. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.

33. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?

34. And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

35. For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

Theophylact. Because the relations of the Lord had come to seize upon Him, as if beside Himself, His mother, urged by the sympathy of her love, came to Him; wherefore it is said, And there came unto him his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.

Chrysostom. (non occ.) From this it is manifest that His brethren and His mother were not always with Him; but because He was beloved by them, they come from reverence and affection, waiting without. Wherefore it goes on, And the multitude sat about him, &c.

Bede. (ubi sup.) The brothers of the Lord must not be thought to be the sons of the ever-virgin Mary, as Helvidius sayp, nor the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, as some think, but rather they must be understood to be His relations.

Pseudo-Chrysostom. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) But another Evangelist says, that His brethren did not believe on Him. With which this agrees, which says, that they sought Him, waiting without, and with this meaning the Lord does not mention them as relations. Wherefore it follows, And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother or my brethren? (John 7:5) But He does not here mention His mother and His brethren altogether with reproof, but to shew that a man must honour his own soul above all earthly kindred; wherefore this is fitly said to those who called Him to speak with His mother and relations, as if it were a more useful task than the teaching of salvation.

Bede. (Ambr in Luc. 6, 36. Bede ubi sup.) Being asked therefore by a message to go out, He declines, not as though He refused the dutiful service of His mother, but to shew that He owes more to His Father’s mysteries than to His mother’s feelings. Nor does He rudely despise His brothers, but, preferring His spiritual work to fleshly relationship, He teaches us that religion is the bond of the heart rather than that of the body. Wherefore it goes on, And looking round about on them which sat about him, he said, Behold my mother and my brethren.

Chrysostom. (non occ.) By this, the Lord shews that we should honour those who are relations by faith rather than those who are relations by blood. A man indeed is made the mother of Jesus by preaching Himq; for He, as it were, brings forth the Lord, when he pours Him into the heart of his hearers.

Pseudo-Jerome. But let us be assured that we are His brethren and His sisters, if we do the will of the Father; that we may be joint-heirs with Him, for He discerns us not by sex but by our deeds. Wherefore it goes on: Whosoever shall do the will of God, &c.

Theophylact. He does not therefore say this, as denying His mother, but as shewing that He is worthy of honour, not only because she bore Christ, but on account of her possessing every other virtue.

Bede. (ubi sup.) But mystically, the mother and brother of Jesus means the synagogue, (from which according to the flesh He sprung,) and the Jewish people who, while the Saviour is teaching within, come to Him, and are not able to enter, because they cannot understand spiritual things. But the crowd eagerly enter, because when the Jews delayed, the Gentiles flocked to Christ; but His kindred, who stand without wishing to see the Lord, are the Jews who obstinately remained without, guarding the letter, and would rather compel the Lord to go forth to them to teach carnal things, than consent to enter in to learn spiritual things of Him. (Ambr in Luc. 6, 37.). If therefore not even His parents when standing without are acknowledged, how shall we be acknowledged, if we stand without? For the word is within and the light within.

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St Augustine’s Tractates on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

TRACTATE TWO
Jn 1:6-8

It is fitting, brethren, that as far as possible we should treat of the text of Holy Scripture, and especially of the Holy Gospel, without omitting any portion, that both we ourselves may derive nourishment according to our capacity, and may minister to you from that source from which we have been nourished. Last Lord’s day, we remember, we treated of the first section; that is, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was nothing made. That which was made, in Him is life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” So far, I believe, had I advanced in the treatment of the passage: let all who were present recall what was then said; and those of you who were not present, believe me and those who chose to be present. Now therefore,—because we cannot always be repeating everything, out of justice to those who desire to hear what follows, and because repetition of the former thought is a burden to them and deprives them of what succeeds,—let those who were absent on the former occasion refrain from demanding repetition, but, together with those who were here, listen to the present exposition.

2. It goes on, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” Truly, brethren beloved, those things which were said before, were said regarding the ineffable divinity of Christ, and almost ineffably. For who shall comprehend “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God”? And do not allow the name word to appear mean to you, through the habit of daily words, for it is added, “and the Word was God.” This Word is He of whom yesterday we spoke much; and I trust that God was present, and that even from only thus much speaking something reached your hearts. “In the beginning was the Word.” He is the same, and is in the same manner; as He is, so He is always; He cannot be changed; that is, He is. This His name He spoke to His servant Moses: “I am that I am; and He that is hath sent me.”1 Who then shall comprehend this when you see that all mortal things are variable; when you see that not only do bodies vary as to their qualities, by being born, by increasing, by becoming less, by dying, but that even souls themselves through the effect of divers volitions are distended and divided; when you see that men can obtain wisdom if they apply themselves to its light and heat, and also lose wisdom if they remove themselves from it through some evil influence? When, therefore, you see that all those things are variable, what is that which is, unless that which transcends all things which are so that they are not? Who then can receive this? Or who, in what manner soever he may have applied the strength of his mind to touch that which is, is, can reach to that which he may in any way have touched with his mind? It is as if one were to see his native land at a distance, and the sea intervening; he sees whither he would go, but he has not the means of going. So we desire to arrive at that our stability where that which is, because this alone always is as it is: the sea of this world interrupts our course, even although already we see whither we go; for many do not even see whither they go. That there might be a way by which we could go, He has come from Him to whom we wished to go. And what has He done? He has appointed a tree by which we may cross the sea. For no one is able to cross the sea of this world, unless borne by the cross of Christ. Even he who is of weak eyesight sometimes embraces this cross; and he who does not see from afar whither he goes, let him not depart from it, and it will carry him over.

3. Therefore, my brethren, I would desire to have impressed this upon your hearts: if you wish to live in a pious and Christian manner, cling to Christ according to that which He became for us, that you may arrive at Him according to that which is, and according to that which was. He approached, that for us He might become this; because He became that for us, on which the weak may be borne, and cross the sea of this world and reach their native country; where there will be no need of a ship, for no sea is crossed. It is better then not to see with the mind that which is, and yet not to depart from the cross of Christ, than to see it with the mind, and despise the cross of Christ. It is good beyond this, and best of all, if it be possible, that we both see whither we ought to go, and hold fast that which carries us as we go. This they were able to do, the great minds of the mountains, who have been called mountains, whom the light of divine justice pre-eminently illuminates; they were able to do this, and saw that which is. For John seeing said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” They saw this, and in order that they might arrive at that which they saw from afar, they did not depart from the cross of Christ, and did not despise Christ’s lowliness. But little ones who cannot understand this, who do not depart from the cross and passion and resurrection of Christ, are conducted in that same ship to that which they do not see, in which they also arrive who do see.

4. But truly there have been some philosophers of this world who have sought for the Creator by means of the creature; for He can be found by means of the creature, as the apostle plainly says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and glory; so they are without excuse.” And it follows, “Because that, when they knew God;” he did not say, Because they did not know, but “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” How darkened? It follows, when he says more plainly: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”2 They saw whither they must come; but ungrateful to Him who afforded them what they saw, they wished to ascribe to themselves what they saw; and having become proud, they lost what they saw, and were turned from it to idols and images, and to the worship of demons, to adore the creature and to despise the Creator. But these having been blinded did those things, and became proud, that they might be blinded: when they were proud they said that they were wise. Those, therefore, concerning whom he said, “Who, when they had known God,” saw this which John says, that by the Word of God all things were made. For these things are also found in the books of the philosophers: and that God has an only-begotten Son, by whom are all things. They were able to see that which is, but they saw it from afar: they were unwilling to hold the lowliness of Christ, in which ship they might have arrived in safety at that which they were able to see from afar; and the cross of Christ appeared vile to them. The sea has to be crossed, and dost thou despise the wood? Oh, proud wisdom! thou laughest to scorn the crucified Christ; it is He whom thou dost see from afar: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” But wherefore was He crucified? Because the wood of His humiliation was needful to thee. For thou hadst become swollen with pride, and hadst been cast out far from that fatherland; and by the waves of this world has the way been intercepted, and there is no means of passing to the fatherland unless borne by the wood. Ungrateful one! thou laughest Him to scorn who has come to thee that thou mayest return: He has become the way, and that through the sea:1 thence He walked in the sea to show that there is a way in the sea. But thou who art not able in any way thyself to walk in the sea, be carried in a ship, be carried by the wood: believe in the crucified One, and thou shalt arrive thither. On account of thee He was crucified, to teach thee humility; and because if He should come as God, He would not be recognized. For if He should come as God, He would not come to those who were not able to see God. For not according to His Godhead does He either come or depart; since He is everywhere present, and is contained in no place. But, according to what did He come? He appeared as a man.

5. Therefore, because He was so man, that the God lay hid in Him, there was sent before Him a great man, by whose testimony He might be found to be more than man. And who is this? “He was a man.” And how could that man speak the truth concerning God? “He was sent by God.” What was he called? “Whose name was John.” Wherefore did he come? “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him.” What sort of man was he who was to bear witness concerning the light? Something great was that John, vast merit, great grace, great loftiness! Admire, by all means, admire; but as it were a mountain. But a mountain is in darkness unless it be clothed with light. Therefore only admire John that you may hear what follows, “He was not that light;” lest if, when thou thinkest the mountain to be the light, thou make shipwreck on the mountain, and find not consolation. But what oughtest thou to admire? The mountain as a mountain. But lift thyself up to Him who illuminates the mountain, which for this end was elevated that it might be the first to receive the rays, and make them known to your eyes. Therefore, “he was not that light.”

6. Wherefore then did he come? “But that he might bear witness concerning the light.” Why so? “That all might believe through him.” And concerning what light was he to bear witness? “That was the true light.” Wherefore is it added true? Because an enlightened man is also called a light; but the true light is that which enlightens. For even our eyes are called lights; and nevertheless, unless either during the night a lamp is lighted, or during the day the sun goes forth, these lights are open in vain. Thus, therefore, John was a light, but not the true light; because, if not enlightened, he would have been darkness; but, by enlightenment, he became a light. For unless he had been enlightened he would have been darkness, as all those once impious men, to whom, as believers, the apostle said, “Ye were sometimes darkness.” But now, because they had believed, what?—“but now are ye light,” he says, “in the Lord.”2 Unless he had added “in the Lord,” we should not have understood. “Light,” he says, “in the Lord:” darkness you were not in the Lord. “For ye were sometimes darkness,” where he did not add in the Lord. Therefore, darkness in you, light in the Lord. And thus “he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light.”

TRACTATE FOUR
Jn 1:19-28

You have very often heard, holy brethren, and you know well, that John the Baptist, in proportion as he was greater than those born of women, and was more humble in his acknowledgment of the Lord, obtained the grace of being the friend of the Bridegroom; zealous for the Bridegroom, not for himself; not seeking his own honor, but that of his Judge, whom as a herald he preceded. Therefore, to the prophets who went before, it was granted to predict concerning Christ; but to this man, to point Him out with the finger. For as Christ was unknown by those who did not believe the prophets before He came, He remained unknown to them even when present. For He had come humbly and concealed from the first; the more concealed in proportion as He was more humble: but the people, despising in their pride the humility of God, crucified their Saviour, and made Him their condemner.

2. But will not He who at first came concealed, because humble, come again manifested, because exalted? You have just listened to the Psalm: “God shall come manifestly, and our God shall not keep silence.”1 He was silent that He might be judged, He will not be silent when He begins to judge.2 It would not have been said, “He will come manifestly,” unless at first He had come concealed; nor would it have been said, “He shall not keep silence,” unless He had first kept silence. How was He silent? Interrogate Isaiah: “He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer was dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” “But He shall come manifestly, and shall not keep silence.” In what manner “manifestly”? “A fire shall go before Him, and round about Him a strong tempest.”3 That tempest has to carry away all the chaff from the floor, which is now being threshed; and the fire has to burn what the tempest carries away. But now He is silent; silent in judgment, but not silent in precept. For if Christ is silent, what is the purpose of these Gospels? what the purpose of the voices of the apostles, what of the canticles of the Psalms, what of the declarations of the prophets? In all these Christ is not silent. But now He is silent in not taking vengeance: He is not silent in not giving warning. But He will come in glory to take vengeance, and will manifest Himself even to all who do not believe on Him. But now, because when present He was concealed, it behoved that He should be despised. For unless He had been despised, He would not have been crucified; if He had not been crucified, He would not have shed His blood—the price by which He redeemed us. But that He might give a price for us, He was crucified; that He might be crucified, He was despised; that He might be despised, He appeared in humility.

3. Yet because He appeared as it were in the night, in a mortal body, He lighted for Himself a lamp by which He might be seen. That lamp was John,4 concerning whom you lately heard many things: and the present passage of the evangelist contains the words of John; in the first place, and it is the chief point, his confession that he was not the Christ. But so great was the excellence of John, that men might have believed him to be the Christ: and in this he gave a proof of his humility, that he said he was not when he might have been believed to have been the Christ; therefore, “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to him from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?” But they would not have sent unless they had been moved by the excellence of his authority who ventured to baptize. “And he confessed, and denied not.” What did he confess? “And he confessed, I am not the Christ.”

4. ‘And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?” For they knew that Elias was to precede Christ. For to no Jew was the name of Christ unknown. They did not think that he was the Christ; but they did not think that Christ would not come at all. When they were hoping that He would come, they were offended at Him when He was present, and stumbled at Him as on a low stone. For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as saith Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But what follows? “And that stone,” saith he “grew and became a great mountain, and filled the whole face of the earth.”5 Mark then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth. Because then it had not yet increased, they stumbled at Him as at a stone: and that happened in them which is written, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever that stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder.”6 At first they fell upon Him lowly: as the lofty One He shall come upon them; but that He may grind them to powder when He comes in His exaltation, He first broke them in His lowliness. They stumbled at Him, and were broken; they were not ground, but broken: He will come exalted and will grind them. But the Jews were to be pardoned because they stumbled at a stone which had not yet increased. What sort of persons are those who stumble at the mountain itself? Already you know who they are of whom I speak. Those who deny the Church diffused through the whole world, do not stumble at the lowly stone, but at the mountain itself: because this the stone became as it grew. The blind Jews did not see the lowly stone: but how great blindness not to see the mountain!

5. They saw Him then lowly, and did not know Him. He was pointed out to them by a lamp. For in the first place he, than whom no greater had arisen of those born of women, said, “I am not the Christ.” It was said to him, “Art thou Elias? He answered, I am not.” For Christ sends Elias before Him: and he said, “I am not,” and occasioned a question for us. For it is to be feared lest men, insufficiently understanding, think that John contradicted what Christ said. For in a certain place, when the Lord Jesus Christ said certain things in the Gospel regarding Himself, His disciples answered Him: “How then say the scribes,” that is, those skilled in the law, “that Elias must first come?” And the Lord said, “Elias is already come, and they have done unto him what they listed;” and, if you wish to know, John the Baptist is he.1 The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Elias is already come, and John the Baptist” is he; but John, being interrogated, confessed that he was not Elias, in the same manner that he confessed that he was not Christ. And as his confession that he was not Christ was true, so was his confession that he was not Elias. How then shall we compare the words of the herald with the words of the Judge? Away with the thought that the herald speaks falsehood; for that which he speaks he hears from the Judge. Wherefore then did he say, “I am not Elias;” and the Lord, “He is Elias”? Because the Lord Jesus Christ wished in him to prefigure His own advent, and to say that John was in the spirit of Elias. And what John was to the first advent, that will Elias be to the second advent. As there are two advents of the Judge, so are there two heralds. The Judge indeed was the same, but the heralds two, but not two judges. It was needful that in the first instance the Judge should come to be judged. He sent before Him His first herald; He called him Elias, because Elias will be in the second advent what John was in the first.

6. For mark, beloved brethren, how true it is what I say. When John was conceived, or rather when he was born, the Holy Spirit prophesied that this would be fulfilled in him: “And he shall be,” he said, “the forerunner of the Highest, in the spirit and power of Elias.”2 What signifieth “in the spirit and power of Elias”? In the same Holy Spirit in the room of Elias. Wherefore in room of Elias? Because what Elias will be to the second, that John was to the first advent. Rightly therefore, speaking literally, did John reply. For the Lord spoke figuratively, “Elias, the same is John:” but he, as I have said, spoke literally when he said, “I am not Elias.” Neither did John speak falsely, nor did the Lord speak falsely; neither was the word of the herald nor of the Judge false, if only thou understand. But who shall understand? He who shall have imitated the lowliness of the herald, and shall have acknowledged the loftiness of the Judge. For nothing was more lowly than the herald. My brethren, in nothing had John greater merit than in this humility, inasmuch as when he was able to deceive men, and to be thought Christ, and to have been received in the place of Christ (for so great were his grace and his excellency), nevertheless he openly confessed and said, “I am not the Christ.” “Art thou Elias?” If he had said I am Elias, it would have been as if Christ were already coming in His second advent to judge, not in His first to be judged. As if saying. Elias is yet to come, “I am not,” said he, “Elias.” But give heed to the lowly One before whom John came, that you may not feel the lofty One before whom Elias came. For thus also did the Lord complete the saying: “John the Baptist is he which is to come.” He came as a figure of that in which Elias is to come in his own person. Then Elias will in his own proper person be Elias, now in similitude he was John. Now John in his own proper person is John, in similitude Elias. The two heralds gave to each other their similitudes, and kept their own proper persons; but the Judge is one Lord, whether preceded by this herald or by that.

7. “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he said, No. And they said unto him, Art thou a prophet? and he answered, No! They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He saith, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”3 That said Isaiah. This prophecy was fulfilled in John, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Crying what? “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.” Would it not have seemed to you that a herald would have cried, “Go away, make room.” Instead of the herald’s cry “Go away,” John says “Come.” The herald makes men stand back from the judge; to the Judge John calls. Yes, indeed, John calls men to the lowly One, that they may not experience what He will be as the exalted Judge. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.” He did not say, I am John, I am Elias, I am a prophet. But what did he say? This I am called, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord: I am the prophecy itself.”

8. “And they which were sent were of the Pharisees,” that is, of the chief men among the Jews; “and they asked him and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet?” As if it seemed to them audacity to baptize, as if they meant to inquire, in what character baptizest thou? We ask whether thou art the Christ; thou sayest that thou art not. We ask whether thou perchance art His precursor, for we know that before the advent of Christ, Elias will come; thou answerest that thou art not. We ask, if perchance thou art some herald come long before, that is, a prophet, and hast received that power, and thou sayest that thou art not a prophet. And John was not a prophet; he was greater than a prophet. The Lord gave such testimony concerning him: “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” Of course implying that he was not shaken by the wind; because John was not such an one as is moved by the wind; for he who is moved by the wind is blown upon by every seductive blast. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” For John was clothed in rough garments; that is, his tunic was of camel’s hair. “Behold, they who are clothed in soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” You did not then go out to see a man clothed in soft raiment. “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, one greater than a prophet is here;”1 for the prophets prophesied of Christ a long time before, John pointed Him out as present.

9. “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water; but there standeth One among you whom ye know not.” For, very truly, He was not seen, being humble, and therefore was the lamp lighted. Observe how John gives place, who might have been accounted other than he was. “He it is who cometh after me, who is made before me” (that is, as we have already said, is “preferred before me”), whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” How greatly did he humble himself! And therefore he was greatly lifted up; for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.2 Hence, holy brethren, you ought to note that if John so humbled himself as to say, “I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet,” what need they have to be humbled who say, “We baptize; what we give is ours, and what is ours is holy.” He said, Not I, but He; they say, We. John is not worthy to unloose His shoe’s latchet; and if he had said he was worthy, how humble would he still have been! And if he had said he was worthy, and had spoken thus, “He came after me who is made before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am only worthy to unloose,” he would have greatly humbled himself. But when he says that he is not worthy even to do this, truly was he full of the Holy Spirit, who in such fashion as a servant acknowledged his Lord, and merited to be made a friend instead of a servant.

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6, 7 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light.

Having before Explained about God the Word, and most accurately gone through the things whereby He is shewn to be by Nature Son of God the Father, he fortifies their faith in what they had already heard by his words. And since (according to what was said by God through Moses), At |70 the mouth of two and three witnesses shall every word be established, wisely does he bring in addition to himself the blessed Baptist, and introduces him along with himself a most noteworthy witness. For he did not suppose that he ought, even if of gravest weight, to demand of the readers in his book concerning our Saviour credence above that of the law, and that they should believe him by himself when declaring things above our understanding and sense.

Therefore the blessed Evangelist himself testifies that The Word was in the beginning and the Word was God and was in the beginning with God and that all things were made by Him, and He was in the things made as Life, and that the Life was the Light of men, that by all these he might shew that the Son is by Nature God. And the Divine Baptist too testifies in addition to him, crying aloud, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. For soothly one will say that He is Very God, in Whom is by Nature inherent the dignity of lordship and it accrues not to any other rightly and truly, since to us there is one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul saith; and though there be many called gods by grace and lords both in heaven and earth, yet the Son is One with the Father Very God.

Therefore, most noteworthy is the pair of holy witnesses, and credence no longer capable of blame is due to the things said, both as having received the fulness of the law, and supported by the notability of the persons. For the blessed Evangelist then to say ought concerning himself, and to take hold of his own praises, were in truth burdensome and moreover ill-instructed. For he would rightly have heard, Thou bearest record of thyself, thy record is not true. Therefore he commits to those who know him to form their opinion of him, and goes to his namesake, doing well in this too, and says that he was sent by God. For it behoved him to shew that not of his own accord nor with self-invited zeal does the holy Baptist come to his testimony respecting our Saviour, but yielding to the commands from above, and ministering to the Divine Will of the Father. Wherefore he |71 says, There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

But we must notice how unerringly and fitly he expressed himself as to each, and correspondently to the nature of the things indicated. For in the case of God the Word, was is fitly introduced indicating every way His Eternity, and His being more ancient than all beginning that is in time, and removing the idea of His having been created. For that which always is, how can it be conceived of as originate? But of the blessed Baptist, befittingly does he say, There was a man sent from God, as of a man having an originate nature. And very unerringly does the Evangelist herein seem to me not merely to say that There was, but by adding the word a man, to overthrow the most unadvised surmise of some.

For already was there a report bruited of many, commonly saying that the holy Baptist was not really a man by nature but one of the holy angels in heaven, making use of human body and sent by God to preach. And the plea for this surmise they found in its being said by God, Behold I send, My messenger before Thy Face, which shall prepare Thy way; before Thee. But they err from the truth who imagine thus, not considering that the name of Angel is indicative of ministry rather than of essence, even as in the history of the blessed Job messengers 6 one after the other run to announce . his manifold sufferings and ministering to those incurable afflictions. Something like this does the most wise Paul himself define respecting the holy angels, writing thus: Are l they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

John the blessed Baptist then is called an angel by the mouth of the Lord, not as being actually by nature an angel, but as sent to announce and crying aloud, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Very profitably does he declare moreover that the angel was sent by God, shewing that his witness is most sure. For he that was sent by God to preach, would not |72 utter anything in his teaching that was not wholly according to the will of Him Who put the mission on him. True therefore is the witness as being God-taught. For the most wise Paul also telling us that he was sent by Jesus Christ, affirmed that he learned the power of the mystery not of any other, but by revelation of Him Who sent him, signifying the revelation in sum so to say and briefly, in saying that he was sent by Jesus Christ. Hence the being God-taught wholly follows on being sent by God. And that freedom from lying is wholly the aim of the ministers of the truth is undoubted.

The man’s name he says was John. It needed that he who was sent should be recognized by the mark of the name, which introduces, as I suppose, great authenticity to what is said. For an angel (namely Gabriel that stand in the presence of God, as himself says) when he declared to Zacharias the good tidings of his birth of Elizabeth, added this to what he said, namely that his name shall be John. It is I suppose clear and confessed by all that he was so named of the angel according to the Divine purpose and appointment. How then will not he who was crowned by God with so great honour be conceived of as above all praise? Wherefore the mention of his name is profitably and necessarily brought in.

But since the Evangelist has added that the holy Baptist was sent by God for a witness that all men through him might believe, we will further say when our opponents fall foul and say, “Why did not all believe the God-sent? how came he who was fore-appointed by the decree from above to be powerless to persuade any?”—-It is meet, sirs, that we should not blame John for want of zeal herein, but should exclaim against the obstinacy of those who disbelieved. For so far as pertains to the aim of the herald, and the mode of his apostolate from above, none would have been found imparticipate in the teaching, nor would have remained in unbelief: but since there was diversity of disposition in the hearers and each has power over his own free-choice, some receiving not the faith missed what was profitable. Wherefore we must say to them (as it is in the prophet), He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear. |73

This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light.

The word This is full of declaration of virtue and praise of person. For he that was sent, he says, from God, he that with reason struck with astonishment the whole of Judaea, by the gravity of his life and its marvellous exercise in virtue, he that is fore-announced by the voice of the holy Prophets: called by Isaiah, The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, and by the blessed David, a lamp fore-ordained for Christ 7; This man came for a witness to hear witness of the Light. He here calls God the Word Light, and shews that He is One and strictly the very actual Light, with Whom there is by nature nought else that has the property of illumining, and that is not lacking light. Therefore foreign and, so to say, of other nature than the creature is the Word of God, since verily and truly is He strictly Light, the creature participate of light. He then that is unclassed with things made, and conceived of therefore as being of other nature than they, how will He be originate, rather how will He not be within the limits of Deity and replete with the Good Nature of Him who begat Him?

8 He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light.

The Baptist having esteemed desert-abodes above the haunts of the cities, and having shewn forth an unwonted persistence in exercise of virtue, and having mounted to the very summit of the righteousness attainable by man, was most rightly wondered at, and even by some imagined to be Christ Himself. And indeed the rulers of the Jews led by his achievements in virtue to some such notion, send some to him bidding them to inquire if he be the Christ. The blessed Evangelist then not ignorant of the things that were by many bruited of him, of necessity puts, He was not the Light, that he might both uproot the error as to this, and again build up some weight of credence to him who was sent from God for a witness. For how is he not eminent exceedingly, how is he not every way worthy of marvel, who is so clad with great virtue and so illustrious in righteousness as to imitate |74 Christ Himself, and by the choice beauty of his piety, to be even imagined to be the Light Itself?

He was not then, says he, the Light, but sent to bear witness of the Light. In saying the Light, with the addition of the article, he shews that it is really one: for so it is in truth. For that both the blessed Baptist and each of the other saints, may be rightly called light we will not deny, seeing that it is said of them by our Saviour, Ye are the light of the world. And again it is said of the holy Baptist, I have ordained a lamp for My Christ, and, He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But even though the saints be light, and the Baptist a lamp, we are not ignorant of the grace that was given them and of their supply from the Light. For neither is the light in the lamp its own, nor the illumination in the saints, but they are rendered bright and lightsome by the enlightening of the Truth and are lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. And what is the Life, whose word they holding forth are called light, save surely the Only-Begotten, Who saith, I am the Life? Therefore, One of a truth is That Which is verily Light, lighting, not enlightened: and by participation of the One, whatever is called light, will be so deemed of by imitation of It. |75

19, 20  And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

The Evangelist recalls his own words and endeavours to explain to us more fully (doing exceeding well) what he had already told us told us briefly as in summary. For having said There was a man sent from God, whose name was John: the same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, needs does he bring in the mode also of the witness given by him. For when, he says, the chiefs of the Jewish divisions after the Law, sent priests and Levites to him, bidding them ask him, what he would say of himself, then very clearly did he confess, spurning all shame for the truth’s sake. For he said, I am not the Christ. Therefore neither do I, says he, the compiler of this Book, lie saying of him, He was not the Light but to bear witness of the Light.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? and he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No.

Having said by way of explanation, he confessed, I am not the Christ; he tries to shew how or in what manner the confession was made; and he appears to me to wish thereby to lay bare the ill-instructedness of the Jews. For professing themselves to be wise they became fools, and puffed up at their knowledge of the Law, and ever putting forward the commandments of Moses and asserting that they were perfectly instructed in the words of the holy Prophets, by their foolish questions they are convicted of being wholly uninstructed. For the hierophant Moses saying that the Lord should be revealed as a Prophet foretold to the children of Israel, The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb. The blessed Isaiah, introducing to us the forerunner and fore-messenger, says, The voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight: and in addition to these the Prophet Joel 13 says of |127 the Tishbite (he was Elias) Behold, I send you Elijah the Tishbite 14 who shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

There being then three, who were promised should come, Christ and John and Elias, the Jews expect that more will come, that they may rightly hear, Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures. For when they enquired of the blessed Baptist and learned that he was not the Christ, they answer, What then? art thou Elias? and on his saying I am not, when they ought to have asked respecting the fore-runner (for he it was that remained) they ignorantly return to Christ Himself, Who was revealed through the Law as a Prophet. For see what they say, not knowing what was told them through Moses, Art thou the Prophet? and he answered, No. For he was not the Christ, as he had already before declared.

22, 23 What sayest thou of thyself? I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

He accuses them sharply as knowing nothing, and accredits the design or purpose entrusted to him by Prophetic testimony. For I come, he says, to say nothing else than that He, The Looked for, is at length at the doors, yea rather the Lord within the doors. Be ye ready to go whatsoever way He bids you, ye have gone the way given you through Moses, take up that by Christ: for this the choir of the holy Prophets foretold you.

A setting forth of sayings concerning the way that is after Christ.

Isaiah. Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.

The same. And an highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; no lion shall be there nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, but the redeemed shall walk there. |128

The same. I will give beginning 15 to Sign, and will exhort Jerusalem unto the way.

The same. And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not: I will lead them in paths that they have not known.

Jeremiah. Stand ye in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for you souls.

What then is the good way and that purifies those who walk in it, let Christ Himself say: I am the Way.

24 And they had been sent from the Pharisees. 16 

They who were sent from the Jews (they were Levites and certain of those who belonged to the priesthood) were convicted of asking foolish questions. For supposing that Christ was one person, the Prophet declared by the Law another, they said, after the holy Baptist had said, I am not the Christ, Art thou the Prophet? But lo, the multitude of the Pharisees also is caught in conceit of wisdom rather than having really an accurate knowledge of the Divine oracles. For why, it says, baptizest thou at all, if thou be not the Christ nor Elias neither the Prophet? and they are shewn again to be full of no small senselessness against the Baptist. For they do not, it seems, vouchsafe to put him in the number of those expected, but sick with the haughtiness that was their foster-sister 17, they deem that he is nought, albeit he be fore-announced by the Prophet’s voice. For though they heard, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare ye the way of the Lord: receiving not his word, they rebuke him without restraint saying after this sort: There is nought in thee, Sir, worthy of credit, nor wondrous nor great: why baptizest thou even at all? why dost thou, who art absolutely nothing, take in hand so great a thing? It was the habit of the ungodly Pharisees to act thus, to disparage one who was already |129 come, to pretend to honour one who was to come. For in order that they might always procure for themselves honours at the hand of the Jews, and might procure to themselves incomes of money, they desire that none save themselves should appear illustrious. For thus slew they the heir Himself also, saying Come let us kill Him and let us seize on His inheritance.

26 I baptize with water.

Much enduringly does the blessed Baptist bear with the fault finders: and very seasonably does he make the declaration regarding himself a basis of saving preaching: and teaches those who were sent from the Pharisees now even against their will that Christ was within the doors. For I, he says, am bringing in an introductory Baptism, washing those defiled by sin with water for a beginning of penitence and teaching them to go up from the lower unto the more perfect. For this were to accomplish in act, what I was sent to preach, Prepare ye, I mean, the way of the Lord. For the Giver of the greater and most notable gifts and Supplier of all perfection of good things, standeth among you, unknown as yet by reason of the veil of flesh, but so much surpassing me the Baptist, that I must deem myself not to have the measure even of a servant’s place in His Presence. For this I deem is the meaning of, I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet.

And in saying what is true, he works something else that is useful, for he persuades the haughty Pharisee to think lowlily, and brings himself in as an example of this.

But he says that these things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, putting this too as a sign of accurate and careful narration. For we are all accustomed, so to speak, in our accounts of things that require it to mention also the places where they happened. (source)

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 12

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2017

Psalm 12

Title. To the chief musician upon Sheminith: a Psalm of David.

Argument

Arg. Thomas. That Christ rose for our miseries and necessities. Spoken by Christ concerning the Passion of His Saints.

Eusebius. The insurrection of the ungodly, and the expectation of Christ.

Ven. Bede: To the end: for the eighth. The eighth pertains to eternal rest; for there is no eighth day in the week of this world, but when the seventh is over, the first comes round again. The prophet, therefore, asks that the iniquity of this world may be destroyed, and that the reality of good things to come may be made manifest. Rightly, therefore, is this Psalm appropriated to the eighth day, since it speaks of leaving the evil customs of this, and of aspiring to the innocence of the next, world. In the first part, the Prophet makes supplication that he may be delivered from the perversity of this world, since the crafty and the proud denied the power of the Lord by their wicked speeches. In the second, he foretells that the promise of the Father is to be accomplished by the Omnipotent Son, briefly praising the words of God, as he had before rebuked the words of the wicked.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. An accusation of the wicked, and a prophecy concerning the Advent of Christ.

Arabic Psalter. Concerning the end of the world, which will happen in the Eighth Age, and a prophecy of the Advent of Christ.

S. Jerome. This Psalm is sung concerning the Passion of Christ.

1 Help me, Lord, for there is not one godly man left: for the faithful are minished from among the children of men.

There is not one godly man left. Rather, The righteous hath failed. He, the only Righteous, hath failed,—not in making good His promises, not in loving His own to the end, not in humbling Himself for us unto death, even the death of the Cross; but hath failed in the weakness of death; those blessed Hands, nailed to the Cross, and no more able to cast out devils, (G.) to heal the sick, to raise the dead: those dear Feet, in like manner fastened to the same tree, now no more able to go forth on their missions of love. The faithful are minished. They are indeed. Of the twelve that had so vehemently said, “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee,”* but one only, and he at a distance, remains faithful: one betrays, and one denies with an oath. And well may the Church, therefore, pray, Help, Lord. “We trusted, that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.”* The Prince of Life dying the death of a malefactor: the King of Ages suffering the punishment of a slave: the One Star of a dark night, as S. Chrysostom beautifully says, blotted out by the wintry clouds. Help, Lord: for human help is here indeed vain. “If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? Out of the barn floor, or out of the wine-press?”*

[The faithful. The LXX. and Vulgate render the Hebrew literally, truths. The Uncreated Truth is One, but created truth is threefold,* that of life, of doctrine, and of righteousness, and may be minished by error, which makes light darkness, and sweet to be bitter. It is true also of heretics, explaining away one Christian tenet after another, and thus minishing the truths of the Creed.]

2 They talk of vanity every one with his neighbour: they do but flatter with their lips, and dissemble in their double heart.

So they talked on that first Easter Eve. “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, After three days will I rise again.”* “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” Miserable flattery indeed, whereby they brought themselves to think that the Omnipotent God could be “made sure” by a little wax; (Ay.) that the four soldiers could avail against the mission, if need were, of more than twelve legions of Angels! And dissemble in their double heart. And well they fulfilled this prophecy, when they gave large money to the soldiers, and sent them forth with the tale that that precious Body had been stolen while they slept. And the wise man may well say, “Woe be to the sinner that goeth two ways:”* the Apostle may well teach us, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”* For it follows,

3 The Lord shall root out all deceitful lips: and the tongue that speaketh proud things.

All deceitful lips. And oh, how many they were! that spake concerning the Passion, “I am innocent of the blood of this Just Person;”* and the Catholic Creed replies, from one end of the world to the other, (Ay.)—replies by the baptismal font, in the village school, in the assembly of the faithful, by the bed of the dying, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate:”* “Himself He cannot save:” “I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and hell.”* Yes: Pilate, Herod, Pharisees, Elders, Scribes, people, deceitful lips have they all; and of all of them long since has it been said,* “So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord.” “Let the Jews say,” exclaims the exulting office of the Oriental Easter, “let the Jews say how the soldiers lost the King Whom they were appointed to guard. Either let them exhibit the Body that was interred, or worship the Monarch that has arisen.”1 And the tongue that speaketh proud things. For what prouder saying than that spoken in the hall of most unrighteous judgment, “Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?”* What more arrogant decree than that, the dogmatic decree of the whole Jewish Sanhedrim, “Give God the praise, we know that this man is a sinner!”* Truly they have been rooted out. Disperdet: that is, as Cardinal Hugo, with a mediæval play upon words, observes, Bis perdet: with the double destruction of body and soul.

4 Which have said, With our tongue will we prevail: we are they that ought to speak; who is lord over us?

So it was: twelve poor and unlearned men on the one side, all the eloquence of Greece and Rome arrayed on the other. From the time of Tertullus to that of Julian the Apostate, every species of oratory, learning, wit, lavished against the Church of God: and the result like the well-known story of that dispute between the Christian peasant and the heathen philosopher, when the latter, having challenged the assembled Fathers of a synod to silence him, was put to shame by the simple faith of the former, “In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I command thee to be dumb.” Who is lord over us? “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?”* “What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?”* “Who is that God that shall deliver you?”*

5a (5) Now for the comfortless troubles’ sake of the needy: and because of the deep sighing of the poor,

5b (6) I will up, saith the Lord: and will help every one from him that swelleth against him, and will set him at rest.

Comfortless! Yes, they were indeed comfortless, those poor trembling ones, when they were waiting for the departure of that long, weary Sabbath; when their one poor longing was to anoint for its burial the Body that they had fondly hoped to see exalted upon the throne of Israel. Comfortless indeed, when Peter was despairing of pardon; (Ay.) when James had bound himself by a great oath that he would neither eat nor drink till he had seen the Lord; when, go which way they might, everywhere was there the exultation of the Pharisees over their fallen enemy, everywhere taunts and jeers at “that Deceiver!” Deep sighing: for they dared not openly to lament; the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews. And poor they were, if ever any one could be called poor. They had lost Him That was altogether lovely: (G.) they had lost that one Pearl of countless value; and what had they left but the faint remembrance of His Words, and the shaken and shattered faith, that was yet not wholly destroyed?

And therefore, I will up, saith the Lord. “Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”* Easter has come at last: “destruction,” as the Eastern Church joyfully exclaims, “has been exiled, immortality has blossomed forth: the long galling chain has been broken in sunder: let the heavens rejoice: let the earth and the things under the earth be glad: for Christ hath arisen, and death is spoiled.”1 From him that swelleth against him. For as the serpent had no sooner triumphed over the woman than the promise of salvation was given to the human race; so Satan no sooner seemed to have completed his victory, (C.) on the Cross, than his power was crushed for ever, and they over whom he had tyrannized set at rest, by the sure and certain support of a Risen Lord in this world, and the hope of a perfect and unending rest in the next. Notice that the reading of the Vulgate gives quite a different sense: I will place him in My salvation, I will act faithfully (or as the Septuagint has it, παῤῥησιάσομαι) in him. And set in God’s salvation we are, when, as doves, we take refuge in the “Great Rock:” faithfully He has dealt with us in accomplishing all the promises, all the types, all the sayings “that He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began.”*

6 (7) The words of the Lord are pure words: even as the silver, which from the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire.

Pure. They fail not to remind us that they are pure in three ways: (L.) as cleansing us from impurity, properly so called, from pride, from avarice. And no sooner had the Lord risen from the tomb, than His words were spoken and written by His servants for the support of the Church to the end of time: no sooner had this true Naphtali, this stricken and persecuted Hind, been “let loose” from the chains of death, than He gave goodly words to His Apostles and Evangelists. And notice how in this very first sermon, His words were emphatically pure words, when He proclaimed the blessedness of the pure in heart, and restored marriage to its first and original purity. Well says S. Ambrose,* “Let us beware not to mingle anything earthly, anything secular, anything corporeal, anything light and mutable, in these celestial sentences. For the words of the Lord are chaste words: that in these, the immaculate and modest sincerity of celestial mysteries may shine forth by a spiritual interpretation. Let us not mingle earthly with Divine things, and injure that inviolable Sacrament of the prophetic vision, or the everlasting oracles by the false estimation of our nature. Therefore he adds, Even as silver, &c., to the end that we, like good money-changers, may examine the coin of prophetic writings, separating the Lord’s money, and purging it from every earthly pollution.” Seven times. As infusing in us the sevenfold graces of the Spirit; set forth both in the words of Isaiah, and in those of the Sermon on the Mount.

[From the earth. Because all the prophecies and types of the Old Testament are now purged from the earthly and carnal surroundings of the ceremonial Law, (P.) and set in their true light and beauty. Modern critics agree in turning the words thus,* in the earth; that is, in a crucible or furnace of clay;* not very dissimilarly from S. Chrysostom, who explains it of running the molten ore into clay moulds.* And then we are reminded, taking the words still of Holy Writ, of that passage, “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.”* The oracles of God, prophecy fulfilled and unfulfilled, evidence of our ransom, that we may be our Master’s “purchased possession,”* confided first to the Jews and then to the Church Militant, were indeed in a vessel of earth. And as regards each of us, the Apostle warns us that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels,”* so that we must undergo stern probation that “the Word of God may have free course”* within our hearts, which it cannot till the fire of Divine love frees it from all dross. Seven times in the fire. So, in the Beatitudes, after seven blessings have been pronounced on the poor, the mournful, the meek, the righteous, the merciful, the pure, and the peacemakers, the eighth, summing up all these into one, pronounces a blessing on those who are persecuted, and have thus reached the final stage of purification from things of the earth, (A.) because the eighth Beatitude, as the octave of eternal life, does but repeat the first note in a higher interval.]

7 (8) Thou shalt keep them, O Lord: thou shalt preserve him from this generation for ever.

Keep them: that is, not as the passage is generally taken, (Ay.) Keep or guard Thy people, but Thou shalt keep, or make good, Thy words: and by so doing, shalt preserve him—him, the needy, him, the poor—from this generation. Thou shalt keep Thy word,*—“Cast Thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall nourish thee;” Thy word,—“I will inform thee, and teach thee in the way wherein thou shalt go;”* Thy word,—“Fear not, little flock; it is My Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom;”* and so, preserving him from this generation, shall hereafter give him a portion with that happier generation, the general assembly of the First-born which are written in heaven.

8 (9) The ungodly walk on every side: when they are exalted, the children of men are put to rebuke.

And we are reminded of the Lord’s own words, “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves;”* and of the Apostle’s warning, “That ye may be blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.”* But starting from the literal sense of the Vulgate, The ungodly walk in a circuit, it is a favourite idea of S. Bernard’s to contrast their crooked ways with the straight-going path of the servant of God; their turning aside from the right straight road, with the “I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed”* of the follower of Christ.1 Walk on every side. Compare it with S. Peter’s warning, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour;”* and say with S. Cyril, in his extreme peril before the Council of Ephesus, “That wicked one, the sleepless beast, walketh about, plotting against the glory of Christ; from whom He only can deliver us, from whom we know that He will deliver us.” When they are exalted. The ten persecutions may witness to the truth of this saying. When the children of men, fearing man rather than God; dreading them that killed the body, rather than Him that hath power to destroy the soul; fell away from the faith, and denied the Lord that bought them: while the children of God, standing firm against seductions and threats, obtained the glory of martyrs as their reward. Notice that here again the Vulgate widely differs from our translation,—According to Thy loftiness, Thou hast multiplied the sons of men: or as it is better in the LXX.,—Thou hast made much of the children of men. And they remind us how the human race has been indeed made much of, in that it has been exalted in the Person of our Lord, to a height far above all height, and to a participation in the very Throne of God.

[The sons of men were minished,* observes Arnobius, when the Lord descended to the grave, for His disciples forsook Him and fled, but they were multiplied by His Ascension, because He sent down the Holy Spirit, through Whom three thousand souls were in a moment added to the Church.]

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who is our help when godly men fail; and to the Son, of Whom it is written, “I will up, saith the Lord;” and to the Holy Ghost, Whose words are pure words.

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

Various Uses

Gregorian. Sunday: I. Nocturn.

Monastic. Wednesday: Prime.

Parisian. Thursday: Compline.

Lyons. Tuesday: Prime.

Ambrosian. Monday in the First Week: II. Nocturn.

Quignon. Friday: Prime.

Antiphons

Gregorian. Thou shalt keep * us, O Lord, Thou shalt preserve us.

Parisian. Help me, Lord, * for the faithful are minished from among the children of men.

Mozarabic. For the comfortless troubles of the needy, and because of the deep sighing of the poor, I will up, saith the Lord.

Collects

Have mercy,* most holy Father, on our infirmity, and grant to us to receive and to hold fast Thy words in a pure heart, that we may be able to turn away from the guileful speeches of Thine enemies. Through (1.)

Deliver us,* O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue, Thou, Who wast Thyself weighed on the balance of the Cross; and grant that neither the accuser may have any inlet to our accusation, nor Thy people acquiesce in the deceit of his words. Overthrow him that lies in ambush against us by Thine Almighty spear, and rise up for the comfortless troubles’ sake of the needy, and because of the deep sighing of the poor. (11.)

[O Lord, Keeper of the faithful, ever preserve and keep us from the generation of the ungodly, (D. C.) and unite us to the generation of the righteous who keep Thy pure words, that we may alway abide in Thy love, and by the help of Thine aid, rejoice in everlasting salvation. Through (1.)]

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